doors

by Margaret Tsuda

Image: Randy Calderone
Image: Randy Calderone

My eyes are
not windows through which
I peep at
hurrying crowds and
birds and things.

My eyes
are doors
through which I run
run
to embrace the
new day and
hail each passerby as
        “friend.”

This poem appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on March 12, 1971, and in Tsuda’s collection Cry love aloud.

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salute to a city tree

by Margaret Tsuda

Image: Akintola Hanif via HYCIDE
Image: Akintola Hanif via HYCIDE

Your roots push and
hump under the cement
that men have
lain upon you as if
you were a
prisoner to be
denied
                even water.

The exhaust gas of
many motors has
stripped and blackened
a half of your branches.

The bright tender
green of your buds
and leaves
is grayed by the
unremitting
smokeshade of
the city.

But passersby
can see that
you believe
“I am that which lives.
I will grow.”

For this
we humbly
                salute you!

In an Arbor Day booklet prepared for Newark school students in 1916, Shade Tree Commission secretary Carl Bannwart wrote: “The more you come to know of trees, the more you’ll come to love them. And whatsoever you truly love, you take care of without urging.”

The Christian Science Monitor of November 14, 1970, published this poem by longtime resident Margaret Tsuda. It appeared in her collection Cry love aloud in 1972.

old jail on new street

by Margaret Tsuda

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The old jail on New Street
has what looks
ironically like a
sedate, white painted
front door.
Over it a funny
electric clock with a
gaudy neon rim
keeps time.
Two wide and handsome
magnolia trees frame the walk
on either side.

But
when I drive by from work
sometimes the van is
in the yard and the
young men
the handcuffed young men
climb awkwardly down.

They can’t see the clock
from the side yard and
they don’t look at
the trees.

What do they see?

What would I see
if I climbed out of
a prison van
hunched and handcuffed?

Defeat
despair and a
no-future world–
apprehension filling
my belly like wet cement.

Muggers
addicts
car thieves and
drunks, yes.
But, men, too!

O, God!
There is more to
being a man
than this!

There’s joy to being a man!
There’s peace to being a man!
There’s confidence in
achievement
security in oneself and
loving and sharing.

But, who will tell them?
O, God! who
can
tell them?

Every day
another
van-load climbs down
hunched and
handcuffed beside
wide magnolia trees.

There must be
someone
to tell them!
Is it
you
or me?

Parts of the old Essex County Jail on New Street (including the administration building, pictured above) still stand, in a ruinous condition, one hundred eighty years after it was built. 

Margaret Tsuda’s “Old Jail on New Street” first appeared in the Christian Science Monitor of March 29, 1971, and was republished in her collection Cry love aloud (1972).

my graffito

by Margaret Tsuda

If I were given to
graffiti, I would
chalk up on walls
        love/duty
        duty/love

Thought of as inimical
these two words are
really
obverse and reverse
coined of the same metal—
base or pure of our
own selection.

Ask some who knew
both very well:
the Apostle Paul
Florence Nightingale
Martin Luther King.
They will tell you that the
larger the
love the
greater the labor.

        love/duty
        duty/love

Four letter words?

 

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Image: Jordan Allen

Shortly after the United States entered World War II, New-York born Margaret Tsuda was evacuated from California to a Utah internment camp because of her Japanese ancestry. She later made her home in Newark, where she published two books of poetry. “My Graffito” appeared in the Christian Science Monitor of March 17, 1970, and in her collection Cry Love Aloud (1972).