by Jared Michael Kubokawa


The superstitious nature

of the number

forces the mouth

to open the teeth,


pout the lips

and speak: yon ,

a polite form of four.

And yet, shi ,


another four,

the same sound

as death .

also means poem .


Me, Jared,

fourth generation,

Yonsei, 四世,

green eyes

in the mirror,

but that last name…

Not really

American, is it?


1902, Hoichi,

first generation,

Issei 一世,

my great grandfather

who survived

the boat from

Hiroshima to

pick grapes in Lodi.

The word shi

wet on his lips,

his four children,

American born.


1942, Masahiko,

second generation

Nisei 二世,

my grandfather,

who survived


to cook steaks

in a Chicago kitchen.

The word “Rosemary”

wet on his lips.

Her name like

so much spice.


She, the idea of love:

to know is to have.

A German woman and

a Japanese man

young and pregnant,

in post-war America.


When the lips begin to pout,

let the sound form long

in the back of the throat:

yooooooon .


1945, Hoichi,

back in Hiroshima

the farm survives

in Little Boy’s ashes,

his children behind fences,

American born son

entered camp as Masahiko

and left camp as Norman.


1975, Norman Jr.,

third generation

Sansei 三世,

my father,

no pouting of lips,

no opening of teeth,

no Japanese tongue,

the word “army”

wet on his lips.

Yet (now) Norman Sr.’s

brown eyes gleamed

when his son made Major.

My father, hazel-eyed

and born to die.


2023, Jared

a father now.

Not really Japanese.

Pouting the lips,

opening the teeth,

teaching the word


“four” to

Japanese students.

Always the green eyes

in the mirror,


surviving the

death in me and

the idea of love.

I am shi .