Albert Kazuyoshi Hongo, I.M.
I once saw somewhere, in a box of old financials, check stubs
and paid bills, or leaned up against a dusty mirror, amidst vials
of nail polish and mascara cluttered on my mother’s vanity
table in their bedroom, an old 8x10 p hotograph of my father
with two of his war buddies. It was a black and white studio shot
touched up so their faces looked like smooth marble, but sepia-
toned with a cast of weak coffee. They wore dress khakis,
smoothly starched shirts with campaign ribbons across their chests
and a stripe or two on their long, pressed sleeves. My father’s
bore none, but his black hair rode up like a glassy wave slicking
over one side of his head, hatless, unlike the others who wore caps.
It must’ve been when we lived in Midtown L.A., in the apartment house
with a Hawaiian name on North Kingsley Drive when I saw it.
I was six or seven, and he told me he’d been a guard at Nuremberg,
passing Lucky Strikes to S.S. officers imprisoned there
who begged for them before they went on trial.
Zigaretten, bitte, he’d say, his one phrase of German,
and he grinned when he said it, as though it were the cheesiest
joke of his life. He never told me one thing else about the war
except that he’d brought a Luger and a Leica back from there
that my mother made him sell. “She no like war souvenir,”
he said, waving his hand in dismissal.