Poem of the Week: "Today"

Okay, I didn't get a chance to post a poem when I was in Las Vegas. Sorry about that, but here's a poem that  I'll be readingtomorrow at a taping for a local PBS show coming out of Fresno. I'm not sure when the show will be on, but I'll update once I do know.

The poem's in three sections, and the first section was the first thing that I ever wrote in a creative writing class.


Summer, 1989

Today, where my mother works,
a young man,
no older than myself,
lost his hand
in a machine.
He screamed when his hand came off.
My mother told me
she could not get the scream
out of her head. All around them,
the pistachios, on the conveyor belt,
and on the ground, reddened.

Summer, 1997

1991, years ago, in nearly another life,
or in between lives, I worked
to hold the place of a man
who's wife was dying,
who would have been fired
for missing work. While I pruned grapes,
this woman was coughing up
pieces of her lungs.

All this poison,
in the dust, on the plants,
in the air.

Overhead, crop-dusters
did their work.

Spring, 1998

1986. Outside of Five Points.
Another tomato field. Another raid
by the INS. There is nowhere
to hide. The men and women too old
to run, jump into the bins. They will be the first
to be caught.

There are some of us
who do not run. We have our papers.
We stand still. The INS agents
will club us if we move.

All the rest run across acres
of flat land. There is nowhere to hide.
The INS vans move after them. Agents jump out.
They go to work. The vans fill.

The ones who are not caught,
who lay in mud and do not move,
will wait until we call them back.
When they do come back, we will look
at each other's faces, to see who is still here,
to see who is gone.