Author photo by Peter's son, Walter Bakowski

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jose Anok, former prisoner of war, Hong Kong

Two Japanese soldiers tied me to the lamppost with rope.

Their commanding officer had a small mole on his right cheek.

He showed me the knife.

When he began I fainted.


Thirst. Dizziness. Buzzing flies.

My hand moved up to my right ear.

A hole. Congealed blood. I fainted again.

 

In the prison camp I begged a fellow prisoner to slash my throat.

“Not for a double ration of rice,” he said.

His name was Wang,

He and I became master rat-catchers,

cooked them on the blade of a shovel,

sucked each bone clean.

 

When the Japanese surrendered,

Wang returned to the mainland,

I remained in Hong Kong,

laboured unloading cargo

down on the waterfront.

 

Bought a gun off a seaman.

Many times I’ve stood in front of the hotel mirror,

the muzzle of the gun in my mouth.

 

Opium allows me

to briefly float free of my ribs.

 

I’ve written to my father,

told him I’ve met a kind woman,

been promoted to foreman.

The crafting of these lies

finds me opening the hotel drawer,

lifting out the gun again.

 

Last week,

I threw a brick through the window

of another Japanese restaurant.

 

I wait for the knock on the door.

I imagine the one handcuffing me,

a rookie,

the war, pages in a history book

he studied at high school.

 

In the cell,

I’ll look at

the walls,

the initials and dates

scratched there.


(from Beneath Our Armour) 

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