Reparations: My Mother and Heart Mountain

Reparations: My Mother and Heart Mountain

Unrelenting, the sun breaks down the white paint,
and the slight incline of the barracks’ tin roofs

buckles or cracks with the four years
they have weathered. Dust and sweat shine like a cap

of heat on the top of my mother’s black head. Grit
chafes her toes; her shoes scratch the rough floor.

So I imagine her at thirteen. Her memory blurs
the exact picture with the few facts she can recall,

and I ask her, What do you remember?
She tells: Your grandmother made us think

it was an adventure to hang blankets at night
and make our own rooms, to fall asleep listening

to the wind and each other’s coughing
as floodlights filled the slits in the walls.

Sharon Hashimoto
The Crane Wife
Story Line Press

Reparations: My Mother and Heart Mountain
Sharon Hashimoto


what it means

An adult imagines what it was like for her mother in the Japanese internment camps, and then the mother adds her own images.

The internment camps were not fun as much as the adults tried to help the children pretend.  The people there were under guard.  Life their chafed and scratched.

We must be truthful about our history.  We must hear the stories.

why I like it

I like how Sharon takes a topic where she could be so justifiably strident and ranting and covers it so quietly.  This is a very quiet moment between a mother and daughter.


I love she uses the images about specific objects—the sun, the roofs, the grit—to 

build a metaphor about being in the camps. 

I like how there is only family in this poem.  The objects of threat are there, especially the floodlights, but no one has action in this poem but mothers and daughters.

You can order this book from your local independent bookstore. . .or Amazon.