March 1, 2022
To celebrate Women’s History Month this year, we invited a select group of writers to submit short responses to photographs of women in the Densho archives or in their own family collections. In keeping with the theme for our 2022 Artist Program, “Answering the Archive,” we encouraged writers to consider the actions and responses that archival materials elicit with these guiding questions: What affirmed your subject’s Japanese American identity in the camps? What inspired hope or strength in the face of trauma? What symbolized their resistance or refusal?
Our first submission comes from Lauren Ito, a Gosei poet, community strategist, and organizer. In response to a photo of her grandmother, she summons the power of the collective. She writes of the “thousands of women who hum in my blood,” and then reminds us, powerfully, that no matter what hardship we face “we never arrive alone.”
Arrival As We
Thousands of women hum in my blood
Forced to play god
Cradled their knives with a gentle hand
Lifted gazes to the horizon
And summoned air
Tucked it into laugh lines
For generations yet to unfurl
Knowing breath is never promised
Especially these days
Inhaling sunrise and birdsong
We never arrive alone.
Lauren Ito is a gosei (fifth generation Japanese American) poet, photographer, and community craftswoman from an island outside Seattle. Her writing explores the tensions of choice and force within identity, inheritance, and home. Lauren’s work has been featured by The San Francisco Public Library, The Seattle Times, Japanese American National Museum, Nomadic Press, and in various performance venues, including the Mission Arts Performance Project, BEAT Museum, and Gears Turning. Her most recent publication is the San Francisco’s Poet Laureate’s series, The City is Already Speaking. She lives in San Francisco, and can almost always be found by the sea. Explore more of her work at www.laurenito.com.
Read the rest of this series: