Conflict: 2 Poems and 1 Oral History Article about War and Conflict (Asian Voices)

These works about war and conflict were originally posted on the AsianVoices Website (1997-2004). This page is part of an archival version of the site.

Lamentation II

i dream
of butterflies
no more.

no more
the wings of joy
but pain
of mothers mourning
the loss
of loved ones

in Kargil.
dark memories
of deaths

of blasts
over the hills
of bullets
piercing heads.
the soil of Dili
has turned
to red.
cesspool of blood
giving life
to seeds
of freedom.
in the name of the Father
another Father
from spears
against spears
the sky
the butterflies
no more.

~ Jose Alibone A. Naboya (Singapore, 24 January 2000). The Kargil War was an armed conflict between India and Pakistan that took place between May and July 1999

Manzanar Scorpions

my aunt and uncle arrive
a three-day drive from California
tomato, pepper, strawberry plants
await a new home in Westerville
(that’s in Ohio)

digging in moist springtime soil
their roots reunite with the earth’s
earthworms extracted entertaining
eight-year-old Justin who laughs

we explore with a magnifying lens
turning over rocks to discover other
crawlers, pill bugs, centipedes—

uncle Hitoshi sits at the table
relaxing with a cold can of beer
and stories emerge from a mind
full of memories

my uncle’s family
was one of the first
where ten thousand once lived
half a century ago, called Manzanar
among mountains of the eastern Sierras
barren dry dusty desert

before the people came—
“scorpions were 12 inches long”
no one believed them
they sent photographs
no one believed them
they sent the scorpions
to the Smithsonian Institution
—the largest ever found

“and centipedes at Manzanar
my uncle holds his fingers apart
with a pause for added drama—
“not three inches long, I tell you
three inches wide!”

that night I dreamed of walking
and walking to discover it closed
returning to desert rocks to find
ghostly centipedes and scorpions
crawling magnified in the moonlight
—their poison still stings
like barbed-wire.

~ Wataru Ebihara (USA). During the Second World War over 100,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were interned. Manzanar, in California, was one of ten internment camps.

A Debt of Blood

Uncle Yung is a friend of our family. During the Second World War, he fought against the Japanese. He tells the following story about his wartime experiences.

Before the Japanese invaded our country, I was just an ordinary villager living in a small and remote village, living a cycle of starting work at sunrise and resting after sunset. I caught fish in a nearby river, fed poultry in the yard behind my hut and grew vegetables on the hillside not very far away from my hut. One day my life changed dramatically.

I heard from other villagers that the Japanese army was invading our country and some of them had already come to Hong Kong. The Japanese forces had taken most parts of Hong Kong under their control. According to that villager, those Japanese soldiers turned every place they visited into a living hell. At that time, I wished those Japanese would never find or be interested to come to our poor and remote village. But my wishes never come true.

On a cool and silent night on Christmas Day, 1941, when most of the villagers had gone back home to have rest, I was lying on my bed reading a book. Suddenly I could hear a lot of noise. My poultry cried loudly. I saw a lot of people walking around outside my hut speaking some kind of language unknown to me. I knew instantly that they were those Japanese. One of the Japanese soldiers broke in and dragged me out of my hut. I could see that all of them had fierce eyes. I didn’t know how to resist even though I had learned some Kung Fu (martial arts). I thought Kung Fu couldn’t beat guns and swords. I was stunned and just went where they wanted me to go. Those Japanese took all of the villagers to the entrance of the village. One of the villagers tried to resist and was then beaten by a number of Japanese soldiers. One of the Japanese officers stood in front of us and told us that they were now taking over this village and that if everyone wanted to live, we shouldn’t resist, that resistance was futile.

“The fate of everyone who tries to resist us will be death” I didn’t know what the officer said as I don’t understand Japanese but another villager told me. Even now, I still don’t know how he could understand the officer.

The Japanese took all our food and valuable things and made us work for them: building campsites for them, cooking for them and treating their injured soldiers. They destroyed most of the farmland.

A few days later, one of the villagers got caught trying to escape and was beaten to death. The body was hung at the village entrance. This event aroused the emotions of all the villagers. We thought that we must fight for our lives or else any one of us would be the next to die.

Twelve villagers joined together to go out to seek help. I was one of them. We had all been learning Kung Fu together. One night, we took action. We killed a number of off-duty Japanese soldiers and took their uniforms and weapons. Some of us used their grenades to bomb their campsite and others tried to escape when the confusion started. Ten of us successfully escaped from the village and we found a group of people who had set up a voluntary defense force against the Japanese army. We joined the force and fought a number of good battles. The ‘Allies don’t come close’ bomb [an action in which all Chinese were warned to steer clear of areas where bombs had been planted] was one of our masterpieces.

Following Japan’s surrender on August 14, 1945. I went back to my village and I found that everything had gone. I really hate those Japanese. They should compensate for what they have done to us. They are to blame for the blood on my hands.

~ As told to Wilson Cheng Chi-man (Hong Kong)

AsianVoices Archives: These poems and stories were originally posted on the now-defunct AsianVoices website (1997-2004), which featured poetry and fiction by young Asian writers. Copyright belongs to the original authors. If you are the writer and would like to remove, add or edit this work, please contact me at and I will promptly carry out your request.

  1. Bloodlines: Family
  2. Passions: Love & heartbreak
  3. Edible Words: Food
  4. Life’s Journey: Innocence & experience
  5. Scenes: Everyday life
  6. Requiem: Death & remembrance
  7. Reflections: Self-discovery & spirituality
  8. In Class: School life & education
  9. In Transit: Travel & transportation
  10. Destinations: Places
  11. Nature: Animals & the environment
  12. Muses: The creative process
  13. Conflict: War and its effects
  14. Kids’ Corner: For younger readers
  15. Pets: About, for and by pets
  16. Friendship: Cherished bonds
  17. Emotions: Emotional states
  18. Haiku: Concise poems
  19. Brushstrokes: Chinese-language works
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