The Grand Silos of the Sacramento
by Lawson Fusao Inada
From a distance, at night, they seem to be
industries—all lit up but not on the map;
or, in this scientific age, they could be
installations for launching rocket ships—
so solid, and with such security, are they. . .
Ah, but up close, by the light of day,
we see, not “pads” but actual paddies—
for these are simply silos in ricefields,
structures to hold the harvested grain.
Still, they’re the tallest things around,
and, by night or day, you’d have to say
they’re ample for what they do: storage.
And, if you amble around from your car,
you can lean up against one in the sun,
feeling warmth on your cheek as you spread
out your arms, holding on to the whole world
around you, to the shores of other lands
where the laborers launched their lives
to arrive and plant and harvest this grain
of history—as you hold and look, look
up, up, up, and whisper: “Grandfather!”
PHOTO: Rice silos, Central Valley, California. Photo by Vince Zen, used by permission.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lawson Fusao Inada was born in 1939 in Fresno, California, a third-generation Japanese American. His father was a dentist, and his mother was a teacher. In 1942, Inada and his family were sent to internment camps, first in Fresno, then in Arkansas and Colorado. Inada’s poetry collections include Before the War: Poems as They Happened (1971); Legends from Camp (1992), winner of the American Book Award; and Drawing the Line (1997), winner of the Oregon Book Award. He edited the anthology Only What We Carry: The Japanese Internment Experience (2000), a major contribution to the record of the Japanese American experience. Appointed Oregon poet laureate in 2006, his awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Creative Arts Grant from the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund.