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Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column

Fruits of connection

Happy autumn, all! This month we feature organic farmer, artist, and Yonsei Memory Project co-founder, Nikiko Masumoto with a delicious set of poetry that reaches us from soil nurtured through the generations and welcomes “city cousins..into a relationship with the land.”

Nikiko was asking questions when penning this piece—“What will happen to our farm if people don’t remember what a succulent peach tastes like, or perhaps someone has never tasted one at peak ripeness? How can I help nurture connections with other yonsei and gosei whose ancestors farmed in the same countryside that I get to call home?” In particular she dedicated her poem to her “city cousin” Sean Miura, who invited Nikiko to perform at a summertime Tuesday Night Cafe and where I first heard these beautiful words.

As a Sansei/Yonsei still learning to honor my Yonsei line while recognizing our many family members who labored and farmed throughout the coastal and central veins of California, I delight in these poems and Nikiko’s generous invitation to connect. Enjoy!!

—traci kato-kiriyama

* * * * *

Photo by Gosia Wozniacka

Nikiko Masumoto (she/her) is an organic farmer, memory keeper, and artist. She is Yonsei, a fourth generation Japanese American, and gets to touch the same soil her great-grandparents worked in California where Masumoto Family Farm grows organic nectarines, apricots, peaches and grapes for raisins. With her family, she’s co-authored 2 books: Changing Season: A Father, A Daughter, A Family Farm and The Perfect Peach: Recipes and Stories from the Masumoto Family Farm. She activates her facilitation, leadership, and creative skills as a performer and leader in the following organizations: co-founder of Yonsei Memory Project, team member of Center for Performance and Civic Practice, member of University Advisory Board (CSU Fresno) board of Trustees of Western States Arts Federation, board of directors of Art of the Rural, and perennial volunteer change-worker. In 2020, she was named one of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 100 and Creative 10. Her most cherished value is courage and most important practice is listening.

 

Dear City Cousin,

Would it be too much if I told you….I think about you all the time.

Especially during summer,
when the days overfill with light
and the sun here in the Central Valley is so fierce it passes
through all clothing to roast your skin by 8 am
And the dogs disappear to hide in shady places rather than chase rabbits in the yard
And the fruit grows large, swells heavy with juice and flavor and story.

I think about you, dear city cousin.

I wonder when you last got to look up at the stars
I worry how long it’s been since you’ve touched soil

I think about that first visit when you ate your first peach direct from the tree.
Standing in the dusty fields, I left you alone to eat without my curious stare.
How was that first bite?

Once your teeth passed through the outer layer, did the juices come rushing forward? Did the sensation of sweet and acid roll over your tongue? Did your eyes instinctively close in revelry? Did you sigh aloud in exaltation of the sweet succulence of peach? Did we meet your expectations? Did we transport you to somewhere overflowing with hope?

There are days that I think we humans do not deserve such heavenly scent and taste in the golden orbs of peach.

And then there are other days when it seems so clear:
it is indeed our life’s task to make ourselves worthy of the divinity of summer.

Perhaps this is the magic of plants –
The trees only know how to pay it forward,
they do not live in transaction with us,
they live in a constant flow of generosity.


Dear City Cousin,

I hope you know you are at home here,
That you can return again and again to the land
To be nourished
To belong to a place
To master the presence of eating a peach
To breathe in the air of ancestral lands
To be free
and never lose hope


Dear City Cousin,

Even if you are not here, if you are standing in a fluorescent lit aisle at a supermarket, or a restaurant, or a farmer’s market, or opening the door for a delivery ---
When you hold a peach in your hand,
I hope you know you have roots in this world
I hope you know that someone is thinking about your well-being
I hope you know that you are loved.

*These poems are copyrighted by Nikiko Masumoto (2022)

 

© 2022 Nikiko Masumoto

poems poetry

About this series

Nikkei Uncovered: a poetry column is a space for the Nikkei community to share stories through diverse writings on culture, history, and personal experience. The column will feature a wide variety of poetic form and subject matter with themes that include history, roots, identity; history—past into the present; food as ritual, celebration, and legacy; ritual and assumptions of tradition; place, location, and community; and love.

We’ve invited author, performer, and poet traci kato-kiriyama to curate this monthly poetry column, where we will publish one to two poets on the third Thursday of each month—from senior or young writers new to poetry, to published authors from around the country. We hope to uncover a web of voices linked through myriad differences and connected experience.

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