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My Sakura Memoir

My Sakura Memoir_Published on Red Noise Collective March 2023.jpg
Red noise collective website screenshot

I. 1987, Wuxi 

We sang all the way on a school bus to the Friendship Garden, where pink-white sakura bloomed like children’s innocence. 

The trees were planted by a Japanese troupe and local volunteers. The troupe leader was warmly welcomed at a business banquet years ago. “Mr. Hasegawa, is this your first visit to China?” He buried his frozen smile in palm-shaped silence. He was conscripted into WWII. 

He came back the next year with Sakura saplings. He came back every year, until death. 

II. 1998, Nanjing 


This Japanese technician whom I interpreted for made a pale-faced plea: “Can you and the professor please travel to Shanghai for our next-day meetings?” 

It was a 6-hour trip. No high speed rail back then. Said he couldn’t fall asleep. Said he had panic attacks. Said he walked past a cherry-blooming temple and people were all friendly, but.  

He was in his 40s, born after the war. But he could never not see 1937, a blackhole buried beneath this glorious city: A 6-week massacre. A death toll of 300,000. China’s capital city bloody looted, firebombed, and mass raped from infants to 90-year olds. 


III. 2004, Washington D.C. 


I missed the Sakura season, but not this white pine. A bonsai cultivated by five generations. A survivor of  the Hiroshima atomic bomb. A gift for the United States’ bicentennial. 

A nearby stele inscribed Washington’s first wish “to see the whole world in peace, and the inhabitants of it as one band of brothers, striving who should contribute most to the happiness of mankind”. 


IV. 2015, California 


A girlfriend’s story struck me louder than the Cherry Blossom Festival Taiko drums. Her grandma was a little girl biting fingernails in the concentration camps in 1942, after the Pearl Harbor attack.  

At age 82, she still startle-jumps at every knock on the door: Hurry, hurry, hide! They are here to take all my possessions again. Grandma, the war was over a looong time ago. You never know.   


V. 2023, Internet  


Russia recently threatens nuclear war if it loses in Ukraine.”--New York Times


Every spring, 3,000 sakura trees in D.C. and over 30,000 in Wuxi will blush into scented symphonies and fall like blood stains.  


Every petal will bloom a tear, a smile. 

                             An apology, a forgiveness. 

                                        A memoir of generational trauma and healing.

                                                           An unfulfilled wish. Still.    

©Jiang Pu

My Sakura Memoir was published in Red Noise Collective Journal, March 2023

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