Neile Graham

Minidoka Dump

Anna writes from the ruins of Minidoka
Japanese American internment camp, Idaho.

The first time I went, it was windy and cold,
dust particles scratched my eye. Sometimes

the grass is high and the dump is hidden.
I always search out the prettiest things–

the ceramics and anything unique. Always
there is something new. I search for things

evocative of life there, trying to understand
how it was, to make a personal link.

The dump is a mile north of the camp
beyond the fields, just grass, sagebrush,

basalt. The archaeologist estimates
it was six feet deep. A bizarre combination

of army and construction rubble, acres of it,
Japanese ceramics, and artifacts

from the internees–toilets, trash cans,
stuff the WRA provided for camp life.

Old automobiles have been shot up.
Used rifle canisters and beer bottles and cans mix in.

There is a place in the dump, a depression,
where the personal rubbish was thrown.

Ceramics, glass, cold cream jars, odds
and ends left, trampled, flooded and burnt,

beat up over seventy years: a soda bottle vase
made during camp–the outside mortared

and set with local stones; a glass toy
in the shape of a fire truck; beautiful shards

of tea cups and teapots made in Japan,
these are the prettiest with a range

of colors and patterns, mostly blue and white;
old shoes; marbles; light fixtures;

the gazillions of cold cream jars–
opaque white. Think of the dry dry dusty air

that met the internees from the coastal damp,
the need for all those jars–half a century

later their dust etching Anna’s eye
like faery dust, preparing her to see.


Neile Graham currently serves as workshop director of Clarion West Writers Workshop. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana, and her poetry and fiction have been published in the U.S, the U.K., and Canada, including most recently, Twisted Moon, Polar Borealis, and a recent issue of The Literary Nest. She has three poetry collections, most recently Blood Memory, and a spoken word CD, She Says: Poems Selected and New. Two new collections are scheduled for 2019.

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