Sakada, guest contributor
A group of us were guided
over a wooden wharf, each board
tilted against the next, uneven and salty.
We walked into a warehouse-like building.
So official, so dank, so cold
and shuttered in by heavy fog.
A tall man talked to me through his coyote teeth,
with spit falling out of the sides of his mouth.
He looked in my bag and snatched up
the three oranges.
I was a new immigrant in a new land.
I was here in America to marry the man
in the photo, the photo I clutched in my left hand.
I only spoke Japanese. I only carried
one bag and one suitcase. The bag
held my three oranges, my favorite
kimono, a picture of my mother
and father taken the week before
I left Japan.
The oranges were from Hawaii.
I bought them from a happy man
selling them out of a cart near
the boat’s back gangway. I ate one
every day. First I just held the chosen orange
in my hand. It reminded me of the sunshine
on my face in my family’s garden. As my fingers
pulled at its soft flesh, it reminded me
of my mother’s softness, her voice overflowing
with a pitched sweetness. One orange a day,
as the boat churned its way to San Francisco.
The oranges were from a happy man in Hawaii.
The tall man took them out of my bag as if
they belonged to him. He did not look at me.
I could not stop myself from looking at him.
“Hey Walter, help me out over here”
a shorter man shouted, interrupting.
The tall man turned and left.
I felt the hard floor pushing me
towards submission. I heard my mother
and father’s voices, advising me to be cautious,
but I grabbed those three oranges off the counter,
put them back in my bag, and walked into America.
This poem is part of a series of poems I am writing about my Obachan (grandmother). I was very young when she died, so I did not know her as I would have liked. I do carry her name, Masako, as my middle name. (Second from right in the photo)
In being asked by Brenda to write about my grandmother, I found myself channeling poems. So the poems are written in first-person. Three Oranges is the first poem that came through. In this way, I am getting to know my Obachan on a deeper level, and have Brenda to thank for that.
My current project, Save Our Democracy, is both inspired and fueled by my Obachan. I am inspired by the fact that she was an immigrant who came to America with her dreams and desires, for both love and democracy.
I am fueled by her strength, fortitude, and courage. My grandfather died and left her as a single widow raising three young children, and she went on to truly shape the trunk of our American family tree. I feel proud that she was such a “badass Obachan,” and she continues to be my role model for now facing the challenges of our times.
Indeed, we are facing tremendous challenges this year. Save Our Democracy recognizes that America’s democracy is in danger and sees the 2020 elections as critical. The Save Our Democracy call-to-action is to frame your conversations for maximum impact, use those conversations as alarm clocks for your unwoke friends and family, and create a tidal wave of Democratic voters.
The book, Save Our Democracy: Wake Up Your Unwoke, Un-decided, Apolitical, Non-Voting, I-Don’t-Care-About-Politics Friends and Family is available here: https://tinyurl.com/SaveOurDemocracyBook. I am available to speak and/or train, individuals or groups, online and in-person. Check out www.SaveOurDemocracyBook.com and www.facebook.com/Sakada.SaveOurDemocracy for more information
My poetry book about caregiving and grief, Into A Long Curl, is available at https://tinyurl.com/IntoALongCurl
Sakada is a poet living a wabi sabi life in Southern California.
Masako Isaki, second from right.