McKenna Nartatez



Say hi to Ojiichan first, says Mom 

Outside her childhood home. 

Ojiichan’s bowl of water sits by the door 

Ready for his weary feet 

On his return from his journey. 

Doors are left open 

To welcome all, 

Descendants, ancestors, 

And flies 

Attracted to the mix of savory and sweet 

Fishy kamaboko, greasy tempura, and sugary sata andagi 

But those must wait. 

Say hi to grandfather first I remind myself. 

And obaachan smiles in greeting 

Then hands me a flat bunch of lit incense. 

Views of my cousins through the open sliding doors 

Their game of badminton in the backyard beckon. 

Say hi to ojiichan, says mom. 

The polished wooden batsudan, 

in its prominent spot in the living room 

Is decorated in honor of grandfather. 

Pineapples, passion fruit and monkey bananas 

next to candles and flowers and 

The bowl of half burned incense at the center. 

Carefully place my incense 

Bow my head 

Hello Ojiichan 

Welcome home. 



OkinawaSoba-cousin’s house 

Guppiecousin’s house 

Samisen-player-cousin’s house 

The day for extended family 

Visits to houses I see twice a year 

Stuffed with oxtail soup, soba, goya champuru. 

Repetitive greetings 

Boxed rice offerings pile to the side of every altar. 

More incense and 

Prayers and welcomes to ancestors I’ve never met. 



Countless conversations fill the living room 

As trails of my uncle’s cigarette smoke waft upwards  

to mingle with the flowery smell of lit incense 

And all the food. 

Four generations of family  

And above the noise, 

Obaachan’s deep, throaty laugh embraces us all. 

Night falls  

And with full bellies 

We make our way into the street outside 

Obaachan clutches a steel bowl 

And more incense 

Someone adds bits of goya and sata andagi. 

Ojiichan’s favorite foods. 

And on top of it all 

Yellow uchikabi spirit money is set to fire 

The sound of Eisa singing, whistling and cheerful drums 

Embrace us 

As we bid Ojiichan good journey. 

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