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  • Writer's pictureCory Howell Hamada

Memories (II)

The mud in Topaz caked thick on my Chucks.

It was slow going through the wet and the snow, but I told myself I wanted to see as much as I could.

At the far edge of the camp, a sign told me this area used to be the baseball field. The backstop was torn down, the chain links hastily cut--edges of the fencing stuck out of the ground, still sharp and rusty after so many years.

From here, I could no longer see the road--only snow, and mountains in the distance. The weather report said a high of twenty-one today. The wind made my face and my eyes hurt.

I began to regret walking so far out.


Amache was where I thought maybe living here wouldn’t be so bad.

There were trees here, and the ground somehow reminded me of California.

I saw a half dozen deer wandering the dirt path. We stopped and gazed at each other for a long moment, then they bounded off, and left me wondering at their grace.

A rebuilt barracks and guard tower stand to give visitors a taste of what was. The cemetery is still there, headstones with fading writing, coin offerings blue with corrosion.

And all the foundations of the barracks remain, row after row, block after block, dense through the entire site.

They’re narrow, close to one another. The sheer humanity must have been overwhelming.

It’s hard to find a dry place to step in Rohwer.

What would it be like when it rained here? What would it be like during the humid months, during summer storms? Would I forget what it feels like to be dry?

I imagine it would get into the books, the walls, the floor, the clothes, the bedding. I’d fall asleep with it, I’d wake up with it.

George Takei’s voice narrates his story at the informational kiosks. It’s quiet here, and the recordings are strange in their clarity.


Back in Poston, I got the feeling that I was looking for something that was no longer there.

I desperately wanted there to be some marker, some sign that this used to be Camp III, Block 328, that this was the mess hall, this area the laundry. To know that this is the exact spot my family lived in.

Much of it’s farmland now. And I realize that might be a good thing.

One of the major camp projects had been to build irrigation from the nearby Colorado River and start farming.

If no one had used the irrigation after, I suppose it would have been mottainai--it would have been a waste.

And still I find myself searching for something that’s not there.


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