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Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column

Tribute to Amy Uyemastu: After — Part 4

As we continue to pay homage to the great Amy Uyematsu — who, yes, I will continue to call the People’s Poet Laureate of J-Town — I am so grateful and honored to present a poem in this series of homage, by another one of my favorite people and writers, the wonderful poet, educator, DJ, F. Douglas Brown. Doug and I have been working together with Visual Communications on a special arts, poetry & community project around Suehiro, First Street North, and the “Future Ghosts of Little Tokyo” and he was inspired by Amy — now one of our ancestors and inspirations for the extension of our project. Here, Douglas beautifully weaves in lines from Amy’s own work to begin each stanza of this poem centering Charlie "Bird" Parker and Bronzeville. This is part 1 of his piece we are already swooning as we look forward to more...enjoy.

- traci kato-kiriyama

* * * * *

F. Douglas Brown is the author of two poetry collections. His first book, Zero to Three, was selected by Tracy K. Smith for the 2013 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. He is both a Cave Canem and Kundiman fellow, and his poems have appeared in numerous journals and magazines. Brown proudly sits on the advisory circle for the Lorca Latinx Poetry Prize and the boards for Beyond Baroque and Cultural Daily. Currently, he teaches at Loyola High School of Los Angeles, where he serves as the Director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion. When he is not teaching, writing or with his children (Isaiah, Olivia, and Simone), he is busy DJing with the Halo-Halo Boyz in the greater Los Angeles area.


Bird Entering Bronzeville 
after Amy Uyematsu

It begins here—
        As a song stuck in Bird’s head, his come-down
        Tune swaying a bit, humming, and then a full tap
        To the bright of LA shine. It clears his aches:
        “I’m awake goddamn it! I’m awake.” And Bird don’t care
        About the young buck Miles. In this business,

young men vanish in the night.
        Bird knows this truth and attempts to belt
        His head out while rehearsing. Take after take—
        Nothing until a knock and a back door devil
        Deal. A spell slips midday away.
        “The Finale gon’ be magic
        Tonight, baby.” Yes, tonight Bird plays
        The gravy off the plate. Tonight

poets go to jail
        Without a way to describe translucence,
        But it wears double-breasted pinstripes
        And the boogie dines until breakfast.
        Any causes and curses, Bird riding them off
        To remind the listeners that others know survival, too.

*This poem is copyrighted by F. Douglas Brown (2023)


© 2023 F. Douglas Brown

Amy Uyematsu F. Douglas Brown poems poetry

About this series

Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column is a space for the Nikkei community to share stories through diverse writings on culture, history, and personal experience. The column will feature a wide variety of poetic form and subject matter with themes that include history, roots, identity; history—past into the present; food as ritual, celebration, and legacy; ritual and assumptions of tradition; place, location, and community; and love.

We’ve invited author, performer, and poet traci kato-kiriyama to curate this monthly poetry column, where we will publish one to two poets on the third Thursday of each month—from senior or young writers new to poetry, to published authors from around the country. We hope to uncover a web of voices linked through myriad differences and connected experience.

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