A Reflection

I will always think of Albert as a kind of Japanese American Renaissance man. He was different, "out there," flippant, opinionated, and gruff. Let's just say, he took no prisoners. And yet . . . and yet . . . . While he may have been crusty and blustery, underneath it all, I think he was a very sensitive man–where the earth mattered, life mattered, so did death. Check out his words–nobody can write like that unless he is truly conscious of the world around him.

I don't remember when I first met Albert. It must have been about two years before his book, "Outspeaks" was published, so that brings it to around 1994 or 95. I recall a spry, thin, bespectacled man in a truck who stopped to say "hello," to Cathy Song and me, as we walked along a road in Volcano Village. "Stop by," I remembering him saying. And he opened up his house to us–as he says, that "small clearing in an upland 'ohi'a lehua haapu'u forest at 4000' edging an active volcano–another edge . . . . " That "stop by" meant many dinners and talks with him and Laura throughout the rainy afternoons, often into the evenings. He talked about everything–history, war, internment, politics. Well read, he certainly knew a lot and put most of us to shame by his knowledge. Later, when we became neighbors, the path between the houses widened, became well-trodden.

When his book was finally published, he flew over and stayed over at my apartment during the time of his reading. As evening approached, he took my breath away when he appeared in a lime greenish silk outfit only he could pull it off to wear. He looked wonderfully different, truly his own man, with his own taste, comfortable in his own skin, and I was conscious of a wonderful unidentifiable scent about him. Up until that time, I had only seen him in jeans and t shirts and smelling of smoke.

Time has a way of running away from us. And though time passed, his house remained open to me the intermittent times I found myself back there. Even when weakened, he invited me in one day, and we talked. We talked generally about life, how he was doing, and about his writing which he continued to do, though he lamented that sometimes he couldn't capture the right words. It was at this time, he sort of chuckled about the Bodhisattva Ideal and at my becoming a bonsan. "Juliet," he said, "life if but an interlude between death and death." And he smiled, after which time, he fell asleep and I slipped out of the house.

I will miss his rascal smile. I will miss him sitting by his wood stove, either stoking the fire or placing new wood into the fire. I will miss him rubbing the head of his dog or cat, as he talked, smoked, and inhaled deeply.

Talk story

  1. Darrell Lum says:

    Albert was a remarkable man. So when he was convinced to let us publish his collection, we couldn't really do it until he was able to type out his poems from his journals, some which dated back to the 50s, and because of the cross-outs and the arrows and the insertions only he could read them! Check out the cover of his book Outspeaks, and the section divider pages to see what Albert's journals really looked like.

    So, "Type um out" we said…no, not quite…he had to first build a typewriter stand to hold the typewriter…so that he could type them out…so we waited…I think it was worth the wait. We'll do a tribute to him in the next BR issue. His wife Laura has graciously allowed us to publish a number of poems posthumously. Good stuff.

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