“After a Stranger Calls to Tell Me My Mother’s Been Hit By a Car in Front of the Buddhist Church” is written from the first-person point of view. It consists of forty lines divided into four stanzas: a six-line introductory stanza, followed by a twenty-two-line stanza and two concluding stanzas of six lines each. The title notes the event and subject that inspired the poem and prepares the reader for the tone and voice of the narrator, who is easily assumed to be the poet, James Mitsui.
The poem begins dramatically in the present tense with the narrator entering a hospital setting. Mitsui’s images in the initial stanza plunge the reader in medias res into the experience. Flashes of color combine with the image of gurneys being pushed “through swinging doors” to re-create the sense of panic one feels when rushing into the hospital upon hearing of an injured loved one.
After this dramatic entry, the poem takes a more retrospective turn with a stanza-long flashback in past tense. Written as if it were a film or theater script, it creates the impression that the mother is a character who is being forced to play a set role. This “script” has directed her through four significant and difficult moves in her life, the most traumatic being the hasty move to Tule Lake, a World War II relocation camp for Japanese Americans. This move is described with vivid details and highlights the fact that the narrator’s mother was...
(The entire section is 412 words.)