Lawson Fusao Inada--American




Lawson Fusao Inada 
(1938-     )  

Lawson Fusao Inada was born in Fresno, California in 1938. At the outbreak of World War II, Inada was forced into an internment camp with his family. Much of his writing reflects his experiences in the three camps in which he resided. Before the War, published in 1971, was one of the first works released by an Asian American writer. Inada helped to edit, Aiiieeeee!: An Anthology of Asian Writers, along with three others, Wong, Chan and Chin. Together they are often referred to as “The Gang of Four,” and are credited with pioneering the field of Asian American literature. Inada has a strong interest in music and jazz, both of which have influenced his poetry. He has been recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and won the American Book Award for Legends from Camp, published in 1994.

 

Drawing the Line

All I wanted
Was a place to live,
How we had always known,
Women among huckleberries,
Tules that teach
Children of junipers, geese and sky.

All I wanted
Was to fight to live,
To be left alone.

All I wanted
Was a concession to dignity,
Our own reservation.

All I wanted
Was our own
Defeat.

All I wanted
Was to die.

Looking into the eyes
of my children,
the gifted young,

Who wished me in women's clothes,
Who silently called me
white and compromiser,

I see the why
I am
The renegade
I am
The revolutionary
I will always be.

What land we had
We must have back again.
This is the stronghold,

The heart, the spirit, 
The land, the heart. 

This termination, this
Extermination, this
Compromise to survive.

The fenced-in barracks
Still stand
Beyond the ancient carvings
Of Prisoner Rock.
The signs are right.
The spirit. The land.
We must have back again.

Those of us still alive
Singing assimilation
With the flick of wrists,
Thrive on the sick
Blood of subjugation
Here on this very land
Where we died.

Captain Jack
Will be hanged
Tomorrow. "Instructions

To all persons
Of Japanese ancestry...
"

This is the stronghold,
The heart, the molten
Flow, solidified
Blood of ancestors.
The blood of us is the red tule rope.

What are you worth
In the eyes
Of your sons?
The blood of us
Is the red Tule rope.