“I Decided Then to be Winter” by Maxwell Suzuki

I Decided Then to be Winter

In the bathroom, my stomach wanted
to become a geyser. The sinks
like neat porcelain shelves held book
after history book of pictures of
sullen bodies framed against a desert.
The mountains begged to be torn
from the pages. Towers, like
toothpicks. Homes stuffed in
suitcases. Faces like the Mona Lisa.
Painted behind them—prison camps—
or cattle stalls. The grid of houses
like struck matches, pointed to God.
Even if their backs were boomerangs,
their eyes were arrows, arching elegantly,
slicing pages. Wearing tags as white
as milk—left in the sun to curdle. I
saw my face in all of them. Muscles
meant for paddles or sticks to catch
fish. Below the photo in raging English:
Japs in Relocation Center, 1941
My skin, like my class in the winter,
and in the summer, like them in the photo.
I decided then to be winter all year long.


Maxwell Suzuki is a Japanese American writer who recently graduated from USC and lives in Los Angeles. Maxwell’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Kissing Dynamite Poetry, The Woven Tale Press, Giving Room Mag, The Racket Journal, and his personal website www.lindenandbuckskin.com. He is currently writing a novel on the generational disconnect of Japanese American immigrants and their children.

Twitter: @papasuzuki