From BAMBOO RIDGE Issue Number Four, September – November 1979, Last Quarter

Ass Why Hard
                    by Garrett Kaoru Hongo

We sit out on the concrete slab
of our backyard patio, catching
the sun sifting through apricot
and lemon trees, both of us
studying: him, stacks of books
high as the egg crates we piled
in back of the Hongo Store;
me, my sports page and guide
to the races. He's getting ready
for the long pull up Bachelor
Arts Mountain. I'm trying to relax.

He's shrinking from what he was
in high school — a balloon of
a left guard or linebacker —
I can't remember which because
he was always on the bench
or else the kamikaze squad
on kickoffs, punts, and returns.

It's a scholar of a damn poet
he wants to be now, and
I guess they've got to be
skinny as I was at McKinley,
playing tailback and pounding
through the line, playing center
field and pounding the black
pocket of my Mel Ott's mitt.

If skinny's all it takes, then
I should have been a scholar.
We said “Go For Broke!” and busted,
“Suck Em Up!” and got screwed,
“Lucky Come Hawaii!” and lost it.

So I brought them all to California
on the G.I. Bill, studied amps
and wattage, cycles of Franklin's Juice,
flipped the lights on in this house,
and my finger to the F.H.A.

For what? For my son to tan
himself under a canopy of smog
filtered light, over some books
that say Keats, Shakespeare, and Yeats?
That's what the mongoose say
chasing snakes through the Koolau.

Must be like my father-in-law
tells me, the Gospel According
to Kubota, “Ass why hard,
eh, Hongo? Ass why hard.”

* * * * *

Bio: Garrett Kaoru Hongo said back then that he was “working on batches of things these days: family history in Hawaii and California, general Japanese American history, and some personal bits. But mostly the history. That's the work which seems to be the most crucial to me now.” And Garrett had recently published a book, along with Alan Chong Lau and Lawson Fusao Inada called The Buddha Bandits Down Highway 99.

Mahalo for reading!

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