One of ten confinement camps that held a total of
120,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II,
two-thirds of them U.S. citizens.
The few remaining barracks look like long,

low barns for hogs or chickens, tarpaper

and gray boards drying in the cheatgrass

across a highway from some yellow hills.

Windowless, doorways doorless and open to wind

through every desert season, one hundred degrees

to thirty below. Walls inside are hospital green

punctuated by vandals’ holes in the drywall.

Smell of sparrow nests in the dim rooms,

mouse droppings on spongy plank floors

the relocated wives would have swept

constantly half a century before.


On one stone monument, a plaque

honors men from the camp who fought the Germans

in the 442nd Go For Broke unit,

who liberated prisoners from Dachau

with their own families still in camps at home

because they looked like the enemy.


A Russian olive tree, big enough

it might been alive when the camp was running,

blooms beside a brick smokestack,

honey fragrance filling the wind

the way it would have every June back then.

What memories that smell would call back for survivors

who found their homes and farms were gone,

who watched their loved ones live on with the loss.