Stone Bridge Cafe: "Sugihara"
Stone Bridge Cafe is a bi-weekly online series from Stone Bridge Press devoted to bringing readers short stories, poems, non-fiction pieces, photographs, and artwork from and/or about East Asia. For submission guidelines and info, follow the link at the bottom of this post.
On the menu this week is an evocative historical poem written by Brandon Marlon that delves into the magnanimous mind of Chiune Sugihara, the vice consul for the Japanese Empire in Lithuania who risked his and his family's lives to help thousands of Jews flee Europe during WWII by issuing transit visas that allowed them to escape through Japanese territory.
This is a poem of one man's humanitarian legacy, of profound courage and human hope in the face of heinous tyranny and corrosive evil. If all hope in humanity is lost, one need only look to Sugihara for reassurance: there is goodness in this world, however cold it may get. Marlon's beautifully wrought poem is an ode to Sugihara as the very embodiment of that deeply comforting reassurance.
The Kaunas desk job was unenviable, war-torn Europe
lacking the amenities of elsewhere just then,
and little did he fathom in advance
how nimble-fingered he would become
in the name of humaneness toward strangers.
His life-saving pen could hardly keep up with
Dutch counterparts partnering
with him in clandestine humanitarianism,
the defiant rescue of Jewish refugees
via the unauthorized issuance of transit visas.
To the Japanese no-no of disobeying orders,
the man of conscience said yes-yes, best believe.
Diplomatic cables from Foreign Ministry superiors
were disregarded; a higher law overruled
bureaucratic dictates from afar. Insubordination
was the order of the day as altruism trumped apathy.
In Japanese fashion, the consul-general suppressed
his deeds despite plucking like brands from an inferno
queue-weary beings by the thousands
who recognized him for his nimbus and wings,
for the unworldly mercy his hand imparted.
Witnessing humanity tarnished, he determined to burnish.
Neither for monuments nor museums
did he gamble livelihood and career,
but for the greater legacy of a good name
now crowned with immortality.
Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. in Drama & English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry was awarded the Harry Hoyt Lacey Prize in Poetry (Fall 2015), and his writing has been published in 225+ publications in 27 countries. Visit his website at: www.brandonmarlon.com.
If you would like to submit your own work to Stone Bridge Cafe, follow this link for submission info and guidelines: http://www.stonebridge.com/sbp-blog/stone-bridge-cafe-guidelines-submission-info