Lawson Fusao Inada (born 1938 in Fresno, California) is an American poet and was the fifth poet laureate of the U.S. state of Oregon. Born May 26, 1938, Inada is a third-generation Japanese American (Sansei). His father, Fusaji, worked as a dentist, while his mother, Masako, helped run the family fish market in Fresno's Chinatown. In May 1942, at four years old, Inada and his family were interned for the duration of World War II at camps in Fresno, Arkansas, and Colorado. After the war, the Inadas returned to Fresno and once again ran the fish market, having trusted the business to family friends who operated it on their behalf during their confinement.)
Memory is an old Mexican woman
sweeping her yard with a broom.
She has grown even smaller now,
residing at that vanishing point
decades after one dies,
but at some times, given
the right conditions—
an ordinary dream, or practically
anything in particular—
she absolutely looms,
assuming the stature
she had in the neighborhood.
This was the Great Valley,
and we had swept in
to do the grooming.
We were on the move, tending
what was essentially
someone else's garden.
Memory's yard was all that
in miniature, in microcosm:
rivers for irrigation,
certain plants, certain trees
ascertained by season.
Without formal acknowledgment,
she was most certainly
the head of a community, American.
Memory had been there forever.
We settled in around her;
we brought the electricity
of blues and baptized gospel,
ancient adaptations of icons,
spices, teas, fireworks, trestles,
newly acquired techniques
of conflict and healing, common
concepts of collective survival. . .
Memory was there all the while.
Her house, her shed, her skin,
were all the same— weathered—
and she didn't do anything, especially,
except hum as she moved;
Memory, in essence, was unmemorable.
Yet, ask any of us who have long since left,
who have all but forgotten that adulterated place
paved over and parceled out by the powers that be,
and what we remember, without even choosing to,
is an old woman humming, sweeping, smoothing her yard: Memory.