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Mrs. McKeown's Poetry
Stump the Teacher


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(A Letter)

In Response To Executive Order 9066

All Americans of Japanese Descent Must Report to Relocation Centers

This poem could be used in conjuction with a unit that deals with prejudice. (Holocaust or civil rights movement) Have the students imagine themselves in the the author's shoes.


Dear Sirs:

Of course I'll come. I've packed my galoshes
and three packets of tomato seeds. Denise calls them
love apples. My father says where we're going
they won't grow.

I am a fourteen-year-old girl with bad spelling
and a messy room. If it helps any, I will tell you
I have always felt funny using chopsticks
and my favorite food is hot dogs.
My best friend is a white girl named Denise-
we look at boys together. She sat in front of me
all through grade school because of our names;
O'Conner, Ozawa. I know the back of Denise's head very well.
I tell her she's going bald. She tells me I copy on tests. We are best friends.

I saw Denise today in Geography class.
She was sitting on the other side of the room.
"You're trying to start a war," she said, "giving secrets
away to the Enemy, Why can't you keep your big
mouth shut?"

I didn't know what to say.
I gave her a packet of tomato seeds
and asked her to plant them for me, told her
when the first tomato ripened
she'd miss me.

--Dwight Okita--


From Celebrate America in Poetry and Art by the National Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institution, published by Hyperion Books, 1994.

Have students write their own letter poem depicting the era of prejudice they are studying.