For Mira
May 2021 — My friends and I drove from LA up to Santa Barbara. We were roaming through Downtown on State Street, passing the Farmer's Market stalls. Surrounded by the smell of self-made honey and fresh vegetables while feeling the warm spring sun on our skins.
We didn't have any plans, seeing where the wind would take us. Vintage shops, appealing photo spots, just enjoying our time together.
"Are you American?", we suddenly heard a weakly, older voice behind us. We turned around and saw an Asian lady sitting on a bench, dressed in a thin black shirt covered with flower designs, an empty Starbucks cup next to her, looking our way. She was holding a book in her tiny wrinkly hands that said 'Hiroshima' on its cover while eagerly awaiting an answer. A wheeled walker parked next to her, packed with all kinds of stuff, mostly little bags, covered half-hearted with soft blankets. Her eyes looked tired yet inquisitive and excited for knowledge. And somehow I wanted to know what these eyes have seen from this world.​​​​​​​

It seemed though that it didn't really matter what our answers to her question would've been; it was just her way to start a conversation — and she knew pretty well what she wanted to talk about.
Hiroshima, Americans, how the atom bomb extinguished the city and its citizens, war, hate, and why this world can't live more in peace and love. It was unbelievable to her how people can be so cruel, develop and act out so much hate for each other.
By now we know her name: Mira. While Mira was talking, her hands moved a lot. Her facial expression and body language told me that this topic is very important to her, she talked her heart out; love, dogs, her work with Army soldiers in Monterey, and our generation. At some point, I told her that I am from Germany and Mira immediately started talking to me in German. My favorite part of our whole conversation, I was astounded.
"Watch tv today, 5 pm, women issues" — her last words before she walked down State Street with her packed walker. Her tiny body with the bent back became tinier with every step she took. Life clearly left its footprints on her, which she carries with pride.
What an interesting, sophisticated, kind character. I want to know so much more about you and the life you lived, Mira Kusuma. You made my day and reminded me why I take pictures and what photography really is about for me. Thank you.
Mira gave me her email and phone number, wanting me to contact her. The next day at home I googled her and found out that she not only was working as a photographer but also wrote poems. Beautiful poems. The first one I found is called "A Dreamer's Journey" and got published in the Santa Barbara Independent in December 2017. (see below) 
A Dreamer's Journey
by Mira Kusuma, Santa Barbara
Wed Dec 13, 2017 / 10:54am

Looking out the window, the monsoon
wind raging above the waves, blowing
the smell of the Indian Ocean through
the island of Weh and into my room,
slamming doors and windows, snaps shut
the daily session “English Lessons for you”
from Radio Australia, crushing my world
a sixth-grader acquainted with dreams.

There …
right at the end of an alley, the moon
rising above the Jacaranda tree
lightening the heart of a lonely boy.
Under the Stormking light, I seize each
word with anguish, stare half-eyed at
misspelled words in a time so desperate
of hope, familiar to a life of simple tasks
and habits, count fallen coconuts wet
with rain.

On the way to school, I hold onto a dream
to visit New York featured on a “Budget Travel”
magazine left on a bamboo bench. Imagine,
walking along those avenues, ablaze with lights
the moon perched on a giant billboard, inches
from the clouds, advertising American candies
in all colors and flavors, beckoning me at the edge
of my sleep.

I share the magazine with children
in the neighborhood, we look at the page
wipe our eyes in disbelief, let out a wild cry:
“Alo! Alo! Amerika!,” “Alo! My Friend!”
We set our hearts, leap into the world,
winging our way to Amerika.​​​​​​​
Back to Top