Bob Shimabukuro on the right. Photo courtesy of Robert Shimabukuro.

Christmas time Portland 1963

I wen’ go bah bah shop
Nevah cut hair since leave Manoa house
Oddah folks gone home

Dorms ‘wen stay closed
Fo’ ova’ one month. Long time.
I walk up Woodstock

Steep. But okay
See bah bah shop. Go inside.
“Want a cut,” I say.

“OK, take a seat”
He staht talkin’ about the

…while he check how shop
His razor is for shavin’
Got my attention.

“Yeah,” he say. “Two times.
Kennedy, Lincoln,” he grinned.
“They liked colored folks.”

He w’en look at me
“Got colored folk hair, don’t you?”
Time fo’ leave, I thought.

And I did. Was scary.
No white male bah bah again
Portland. Weird, I thought.


Number 2 mom

We eat at table
On one goza covered floor
Can have toe fights too

Dad, Toki talk
Toki, me, having toe fight
Undah da’ table

Toki pinch me hard
She listen Dad, I did not.
Dad get mad; left room.“Go apologize,”She said. No like but have to.
Toki my Nesan

I w’en write about
Toki for JA papah
How Nesan lose out

How dey sacrifice
Dere life for dah family
Get little return

So I w’en propose
that JAs should have a day
To honor Nesan

Too bad we didn’t;
Get plenty mail from Nesan
The following week

I get the message.
50 years later they still
Take care of business


A few years later

Telephone ring loud
Three party line, wait two rings.
“Who dis? What you want?”

“Is Katherine there?
Toki. Need to talk to her.”
I t’ink, dis sound bad.

“Well, uh, she’s not here
Doesn’t live here anymore.
She living D.C.”

“WHAT?” He blurts out loud. 

“Wanted to propose to her.
Party line listen!

What I goin’ tell him?
Toki not goin’ marry him?
But then he w’en ask

“Does she have a phone?”
“Yes.” I give him the number.
They didn’t marry.

“Every marriage I looked at, the woman got the bad end of the deal,”

———Toki Nesan  

Toki and Tom. Photo courtesy of Robert Shimabukuro.



“Want to go camping?” Folks ask.
No. W’en Stay Reed

Walking north from Reed
Was different from south of;
Get mostly poor folks

Was thinking ‘bout school
W’en girl fall off tricycle
I go try help her

Her mudda on porch
Start yellin’ loud, “Get your JAP
Hands off my daughter!”

I take look at her.
Drop my hands off the ‘cycle
Walk back Reed College.

Funny kine place I thought.

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