Navigating through dark spaces

I listened, while running this morning, to Lawson Inada read his poem, “Concentration Constellation.” I finished my run thinking about the moments of darkness in the lives of people that I have moved past. I know that the light of God shines and scatters the darkness, but do I notice how much the darkness of a person’s life can form an identifying constellation.

The constellations in the sky can help a person navigate. The bright moments of life will be milestones that we can build upon. The dark moments of life also form a foundation. When I look up to the sky at night, I see both the bright points of light and the massive spaces of darkness. In the lives of people I care about, I know there are massive spaces of darkness that remain unknown to me. As we navigate our lives together, the spaces of light and darkness both work upon our relationships. Am I fair to the thunder and lightning that people have experienced, or do I only notice the spring sunshine?

Full panoramic view of the constellations near the Milky Way by Matt Dieterich

I encourage you to read the poem by Lawson Inada. Lawson Inada is a third generation Japanese American. In 2006, Inada was named Oregon’s fifth poet laureate. When he was a child, Inada and his family were relocated to Jerome Camp in Arkansas. Jerome Camp was one of the internment camps that America established during World War Two for Japanese-Americans.

Concentration Constellation – Lawson Fusao Inada

In this early configuration,
we have, not points of light,
but prominent barbs of dark.

It’s all right there on the map.
It’s all right there in the mind.
Find it. If you care to look.

Begin between the Golden State’s
highest and lowest elevations
and name that location

Manzanar. Rattlesnake a line
southward to the zone
of Arizona, to the home
of natives on the reservation,
and call those Gila, Poston.

Then just take your time
winding your way across
the Southwest expanse, the Lone
Star State of Texas, gathering
up a mess of blues as you
meander around the banks
of the humid Mississippi; yes,
just make yourself at home
in the swamps of Arkansas,
for this is Rohwer and Jerome.

By now, you weary of the way,
It’s a big country, you say.
It’s a big history, hardly
Halfway through – with Amache
Looming in the Colorado desert,
Heart Mountain high in wide

Wyoming, Minidoka on the moon
of Idaho, then down to Utah’s
jewel of Topaz before finding
yourself at northern California’s
frozen shore of Tule Lake

Now regard what sort of shape
this constellation takes.
It sits there like a jagged scar,
massive, on the massive landscape.
It lies there like the rested wire
of a twisted and remembered fence.

Lawson Fusao Inada, “Concentration Constellation” in Legends from Camp (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1993).


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