World speaking out

A migrant poem defies “anti-poem toxins”

Miguel M. Morales grew up in Texas, in the US. He worked there as a child laborer and migrant or seasonal farmworker.

He wrote this poem – by a migrant, about migrants.

This Is a Migrant Poem

This is a migrant poem

a farmworking poem, a poem that covers itself
in long sleeves to avoid the burning sun.

That drinks enough water to avoid
dehydration but not enough to get water sickness.

This poem carries a machete, a hoe, a spade,
a knife, shears, and a file for filo.

This poem walks irrigated rows collecting mud
on its boots that add five pounds to each foot.

This poem guards the cornfield where his sister,
his mother, and his cousins, squat to pee.

This poem ducks down hitting the dirt to avoid the
echoing crop duster spraying anti-poem toxins that
burn our eyes and throats.

This poem is egg and chorizo burritos in aluminum foil,
steamed shut by the heat waiting for you at lunch
in a foam cooler in the trunk at the end of rows of soybean. This poem.
This poem smells of blood—and meat.

This poem flows from carcasses into open drains
of slaughter houses, on kill floors, in chilled freezers
with knives cutting, cutting, cutting, cutting—always cutting.

They duct tape knives into this poem’s hands
to cut even when its cut hands can cut no longer.

This poem is a gift of a strong back, of sturdy legs,
of silence, of patience.

And a never-ending work ethic
a never ending work ethic
a never ending work of ethics.

This poem shows you the bigger picture.
This poem is pragmatic, strategic, and erratic.

This poem reaches as it climbs ladders, as it stoops over,
as it pulls from branches, vines, as it unearths other poems
and tosses them into buckets and sacks slung across its stanzas.

This poem is paid by the word, by the piece,
by the hour, by the day, by the acre.

This poem has no benefits, no days off,
no health insurance, no childcare.

This poem is child labor. This poem is sexual assault.
This poem is deportation. This poem is missing wages,
broken vehicles, sunstroke.

This poem avoids irrigation ditches where
La Llarona hopes to drown it.

This poem knows she commands water and sends waves
of humidity and tempting mirages of cool rippling lakes.

This poem wears a rosary and a scapular and prays to St. Francis of Assisi
to protect them from snakes and rats that live in the fields
and to St. Michael the archangel to protect them from the farmer’s son

who watches his sisters
who follows his sisters
who pulls at his sisters.

This poem wakes up early, works all damn day, sweats all damn day.
This poem always needs a shower to wash off the dirt, to wash out the dirt,
to wash away the dirt.

This poem goes to bed early to do it all again
tomorrow.

This Poem is a Migrant Poem.
A. Farm. Working. Poem.

 

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