Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Sign

So this morning I went out at 6 am to the Sacred Fire area to sit with Al Robles. I had clipped his picture with a clothes pin to a bush under the cherry tree, the picture where he’s emphasizing something punching the air with his finger. It had become a prayer flag for me. I couldn’t bear to take it down from where I put it to pray for his healing.

I left it fluttering or soggily bent in half, letting the Oregon rain wash over it. “When it wears away, his love will spread,” I thought.

I’ve been on email, or writing poems, or on websites and Facebook reading about Al. I’ve been reading Bulosan, watching "Manilatown is in the Heart," basically inside the house feeling sorry for myself.

This morning at 4 am, I tuned in on the YouTube memorial clip, taking a moment of silence by myself listening to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with ukulele in Iz style. And I thought to myself, “I wonder if I go out to the Fire, if Al will visit. I wonder if he’ll leave a sign.”

You guessed it.

The Al Robles Prayer Flag is gone, not in tatters, not torn.
He was never one to just wear down.
This morning before the sun broke over the trees:

The wind picked it up and it flew away;
The blue jay snatched it in its beak and it’s now a nice nest in the fir tree;
The deer came by and it stuck to them as they grazed on berries
And with them, disappeared into the dawn;
The trickster raccoon took it in its nimble hands
And with a few deft moves made it disappear into thin air;
The bees are chewing and chewing and making it into honey;
The rain got so bad last night a giant tsunami wave was created and it’s now the Ocean

Whatever form he chose,
This morning,
Love is all around the world!

Monday, May 4, 2009

For Al and For Us, Two Pieces

A heart felt thank you to filmmaker Curtis Choy, a reverent nod to writer, warrior and spiritual being, Carlos Bulosan; I've been reading his book American is in the Heart since Saturday night. And for my friend Al Robles, who has this week been called "urban saint" and "Confusionist" -- everybody's Brother, and for memories which allowed themselves through the sadness and upsetness. Here are two pieces. The first is for Al. The second for those of us left behind.

For Al
To be read in the Fireplace Room at Tule Lake Pilgrimage, 2010

Because you wrote on paper bags, scraps. and the last time,
on connected sheets of paper towels,
furling to the floor as you read to us,

Because you wrote about cedar trees
And salmon
And meteors
Your voice softened with Love

Because of all that,
I decided I wanted to tell you about a Tribal People
Right there in California.
It seemed you’d understand.
I wanted you to see the meteor showers from Coonrod Meadow on Mt. Shasta,
Take you up to where the water gushes from the roots of sugar pine
halfway up Cold Spring Mountain
And you would cup the icy spring water in your hands
and pat some on your head and heart and drink deeply.
I wanted to show you, along the McCloud River,
In the middle of the campground a fig tree grows
And the peach, the plum trees -- all planted by Granny’s father,
Proof that her People lived along the river long before there was a dam
A damned dam that stopped the Big Fish from coming Home
And drowned the Homes of the people who know the Fish by their true name
And still sing to them today.
I just knew you’d want to be there.

I walked up to you through the crowd to tell you,
But before I could open my mouth
You asked me, “Did you know a monk came to live in my kitchen?
I mean it. He came in my front door, into my kitchen and said, ‘I’m going to live here’ and I said to him, ‘Live here? In my kitchen?!?’ “

I followed word for word your story
About the monk who moved into your kitchen
And lived there for many months or was it years
After first, he cooked a meal.

I didn’t know I was learning from a Confusionist at the time,
But it all made sense to me:
You never closed doors
On adventure.
And each human being is an adventure waiting to be joined.

Another time at Tule Lake, you said we should go to Manzanar sometime.
And we will.

Before we boarded our buses to go home last summer
You told Shizue to bring sheet music next time so she could sing.
You would play the piano.
It was all planned.
You told me to write a poem to read in the Fireplace Room.
“We’ll ALL do it,” you emphasized, demonstrating a big circle with your arms.

But before I could, you went on the biggest adventure of them all
Without us
And now you are All and All is Al.
I’ll see you in the meteor showers at Coonrod Meadow, Al.
Or in the quiet hours at Manzanar when I finally make it there.

In the cold morning dawn of the high desert
Following Peter Yamamoto’s t’ai ch’I moves --
I’ll see you there too --
In that breeze that tickles our nose while we try to hold that tricky pose.
If you succeed to make us stumble, we will laugh, skyward.

I am sad, I grieve
But, today, it made me smile and laugh out loud,
Remembering you.
I know Al is All
And All is Al.
You’re here and everywhere.

From Misa (Joo) of Tule Lake Pilgrimage

How Did It Happen?

So I’ve been wondering how it happened.

All the elders he revered and adored,
Did he see them?
Did he see the old salmon runs,
The giant stands of ancient trees?
Did he see the pristine streams,
And rivers running wild?
Did he see all that
Through the Light separating us?
If he saw Jesus,
He saw himself
And in a moment’s flash
Did he see himself
Being able to help a little more
Because time’s getting tougher here
On this suffering Earth.

If anyone starts making Saint Al medals,
I’ll be first in line to get me one.
No joke.
I’ll wear it close to my heart.

Misa Joo
May 3, 2009


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rest In Peace to a Brother to Us All

Al Robles, poet of our generation for all generations, and as poet Lou Syquia calls him, an "urban saint," as close to a saint as anyone can be, died May 2. I am so saddened I cannot speak.
I offer instead the address of a website
"The Inspiration of Al Robles" put up by his friends. There is a piece on the page called "Confusionist." I believe that it was Syquia again who said he was a Confusionist, not to be mistaken for Confucius. I would like to follow his Confusionist tracks. On this page is a trailer for "Manilatown is in the Heart," with my gratitude to documentary filmmaker Curtis Choy, for following Al with your camera. If it were not for your sense of what stories must be told . . .

"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

from Outside the Monster's Belly

from Outside the Monster's Belly
. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.