Okinawans and Salt

by Lee A. Tonouchi


My Aunty Jane
loves for make
and eat
Okinawan food,
watch Okinawan programs,
and read all kine books about

She even travelled all around
da world,
but da one
place she nevah went wuz
even though
she 100% Okinawan.
And I could nevah
figgah out why.


My Aunty Jane
told me,
“Aftah you go funeral
when you come home
you supposed to throw
da salt
by da door
you go inside
da house.

Das Okinawan style.
Das how
you keep all
da evil spirits away.”

“You no do dat?”
she scolded.

“If you no more salt
den aftah da funeral
before you go home
make shua
you stop
at da store.”

“Why?  For buy salt,” I asked.

so da ghost follow you to da store
and not to your house.”


When my faddah died
my Aunty Jane came
our house
and threw salt
all around
da outside.
Around da whole house.
And not just
by da front door.

I felt like asking
if dat wuz for in case da ghost
decide for come through da windows,
or if da ghost realizes
aye, he can just walk through da wall
cuz heʻs one freakin ghost?

I wuz getting kinda upset
seeing my Aunty pour
so much salt
all around
our house
without even asking
if wuz okay.

Cuz what if I nevah like keep
my dadʻs ghost away.

Cuz what if I wuznʻt ready
for let go.


We wuz going
our daughterʻs
preschool orientation
and I nevah tink nahting
until my wife
brought ʻem up,
da fack dat da school we chose
stay right by
Pearl Harbor
wea couple thousand
American soldiers died
during WWII,
couple thousand

“What you tink your Aunty Jane
going make us do?” she asked.
“We gotta make our daughter
start carrying around salt?”

Joking around I wen go tell,
“Well, da school stay
twenty feet from da water
and das all salt water.
Das good enough, no?”

And das when it hit me,
in Okinawa
in da Battle of Okinawa
one hundred thousand
Okinawan civilians
wen lose their lives
before wuz their time
for go.

And so
now I geff ʻem.
Must be
my Aunty Janeʻs love
for Okinawa
jus no can beat out
her fear



About the Author
“Da Pidgin Guerrilla” Lee A. Tonouchi’s books include Da Word (Bamboo Ridge), Living Pidgin (Tinfish), Da Kine Dictionary (Bess), and Buss Laugh: Stand Up Poetry from Hawaiʻi (Bess). His poetry book Significant Moments in da Life of Oriental Faddah and Son (Bess) won da Association for Asian American Studies Book Award. Tonouchi had plays produced before by Kumu Kahua Theatre and The Honolulu Theatre for Youth. Da East West Players production of his play Three Year Swim Club wuz one Los Angeles Times Critic’s Choice Selection. His next project Okinawan Princess going be one children’s picture book with artist Laura Kina.