Coming back, I’ve been helped by the lessons you have taught, Tadeusz,
That a man’s task is not only to rebuild a country,
but his own household, and even more the spirit of home,
Of wife, of meat and rice, of lights on at night
And no one slamming shut the door that locks you in.
This is bread, you told me as I smoked in my cell, this is life.
And I said, Yes, this is Kubota’s life—to live near the sea,
To harvest from its garden, to sharpen a knife
In the back room of my store and walk out of my door
And hold the blade up to the sun so I could see it shine.
This is a man, you said. A man’s life is important—
It is of the highest importance. And it was my mantra
Every moment I felt my heart shrink back small as a walnut,
Black and withered with the fear of a man who was a number.
I created myself after my death, Tadeusz,
I constructed life with desert and memories of home.
This is a window, you told me, and I gazed beyond it
To the future where a garden awaited me with my wife in it
Holding in her arms the pink and yellow blossoms from plumeria trees.
The blossoms fell, Tadeusz, fell from her arms heavy with scent
As she swayed in the music of all the objects of life.
It was my welcome home—my sons shy and awkward, not yet men;
My grown daughters laughing and weeping; one of the old villagers
Pulling a goat by a rope and giving me its life as tribute
To my silence, years long, and refusal to betray them.
This is a man this is a tree this is bread,
You have taught me. People nourish themselves in order to live.
And I ate what was given for the sake of returning to the midst of life,
So I could talk to the water, so I could stroke the waves in the lagoon
with my hand,
So I could converse with the river running through our village
Past canefields down to the fishponds and out over the reef.
Our lives are of great importance! I shouted to my wife
When I returned to her arms of plumeria blossoms,
Human life is important, as I talked to the water
And the moon and the flowers.
This is Kubota, I said to the earth, to the rain.
And if I heard a voice flowing from the sky, the earth, or the sea,
Tadeusz, it was a stubborn one from the threshold of your house.