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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!”

Lawson Fusao Inada, "The Grand Silos of the Sacramento" from Drawing the Line. Copyright © 1997 by Lawson Fusao Inada.  Reprinted by permission of Coffee House Press.

Source: Drawing the Line (Coffee House Press, 1997)

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Poet Bio

Lawson Fusao Inada
Lawson Fusao Inada was born in 1938 in Fresno, California, a third-generation Japanese American. His grandparents founded the Fresno Fish Market, 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; he was one of the youngest to live in the camps. A jazz bass player and jazz aficionado, he studied poetry with Philip Levine at Fresno State University. Both jazz and the experience of internment are influences in Inada’s writing. Inada was appointed Oregon poet laureate in 2006. One of his poems is inscribed on a stone at the Japanese American Historical Plaza in Portland, Oregon. See More By This Poet

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