Winter Pictures


Dear Rui

It isn’t that there’s nothing left to say Rui, my son;  there is too much and it overwhelms your Daddy to try to find words for it for you, from this distance.  How can the life in our minds find expression in plain, simple sentences? We are the still, receptive places between rushing winds of feelings, as delicate as breezes on the skin of my arms, sharp as razor blades, burning like chlorine. My collection of you, Rui my darling boy, has only grown. Each new discovery vexes me by only showing me that there is so much more to learn. The collection I am making for you will outlast me my biological time, I’m afraid.

Cultural life is some sort of attempt to survive, Rui. Stories and dramas try to keep us in the world. I’m living with an enormous message for you, my boy.  The traumatic tragedy of life Rui is that it is lived forward, and not often told. Recollection and remembering now unites only our shadows.  Settled in and secure with each other, we could live by repeating, and every day would be a story we have for us; an affirmation to build our recollections on. That would be fine; it has many, innumerable repetitions. It was the brilliant air, sunlight, and birdsong in the Adirondack peaks that I recalled and relived for us, Rui. It was a private language of mine; I shared this memory with your mother. She too loved; but now she is desperate to blot it with chlorine and ammonia. Look, and  you will have to see her despair; blotting, erasing, excluding, unable to wash it clean.

My Rui, we lived your babyhood and early childhood, breath by breath. How can you describe music? There are no adequate words. Music doesn’t have to be beautiful for this to be true. What I will do for you, my precious son, until I find out where they are hiding you from rescue, is bear witness in spite of that horrible difficulty. Your abduction is not an altar before which to remain speechless; it’s not sacred. For reasons I can’t explain yet, something unbearable happened to us. Primo Levi wrote, “I still have visual and acoustic memory of my experiences that I cannot explain … sentences in languages I do not know have remained etched in my memory, like on a magnetic tape.” So it is with us. It may be possible to find precedents for what happened to us –  your abduction by your mother is a repetition; a futile attempt to redeem what went before in your mother’s youth, your grandmother’s early adulthood, the horrors of your grandfather’s hidden, abused previous life,  and Japan’s totemic crime against its children. Japan enjoys enacting false martyrdom of its divorced parents, its children of divorce, and particularly the foreign parents of its ethnically impure internationals. (Martyrdom always implies confession of faith in front of persecutors and executioners who understand nothing about the purpose of the confession – which renders the confession materially disposable or useless.) But your abduction is nonetheless entirely senseless.  Because of such actions, we feel shame at being human, much like witnesses to slavery, imprisonment, and punishment of the innocent. But nonetheless, we will bear witness to our punishment, our exclusion. We will not allow that the stupidity that is made a virtue by Japan’s exclusion of parents to define us or our place, nor excuse the crime against  you, Rui.

 Every day I see children, and exaggerations of myself come spilling forth until I check them. Every time I feel a moment’s affection for children on the playground, my students, or a lost looking subway rider, it’s followed by streams of regret, angst, worry, and longing. I am struggling still to find my way to retain some power of action that will bring me back into a struggle for the child victims of Japanese and American inhumanity towards children like Rui, and parents  like me.  I gladly relinquish all attachments that might impede that aim.

LOVE forever, my darling Rui boy.



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