The first time Lilian saw her siblings’ hands sprout from the fertile earth, she hid behind her father’s leg and begged him to be careful. She tugged his fingers as the infant-cries rang through the twilight of crickets and fireflies, telling him that they should hurry before mom came back from the store, but he didn’t listen. Her father looked down with watery eyes and knelt to the ground, trembling. He removed the soil from the newborn babies, took them into the kitchen, and placed them in the sink. Monoecious plants, one boy and one girl. Her father cleared all the dirt from their bodies. With a fresh towel, he cleaned their tiny hands, wiggling feet, faces, their grumbling stomachs—dusting off the tiny ants and soil stuck to their eyelids.
When I wake, I look out the window
and see Jesus descending a tornado
in the front yard. He’s all arms-out, white robe,
gold sash, a pair of Pope-like slippers.
He’s glowing, iridescent—
more rainbow than a postcard.
I grew up in a farmworking family.
No, that’s not accurate—it’s incomplete.
I grew up in a family of farmworking women.
The hands of our sisters, tías, cousins, mothers,
and abuelas have worked the fields, worked to feed us,
worked to raise us, worked to protect and provide for us.
I love my mom but the truth is that my sisters raised me.
Farmwork would not survive without women,
nor would farmworker families.
in the coachella valley
children go to school and learn how to internalize silence
girls sit pretty with pigtails wrapped in bubble-ball hair ties
learn how to cast their eyes downward
so that when they ask the class what do you want to be when you grow up?
boys respond, i want to work in the fields like my dad
Because I still remember my mother’s scar,
six inches long, an inch wide, sunken gash
below her waist, forever unexplained.
Because the scar looked rushed, a knife’s quick work
closed with no time to lose. Because, watching
her dress, I felt both love and mystery,
questions evaded, others left unasked.
Why I Cannot Celebrate the Ruling Still to Come (II)
I met Jacinta in the migrant camp where we grew up. I remember that it was the beginning of June, a few days into the start of the harvest. At that time, Jacinta had lived for nine springs—she was two years younger than me—and for obvious reasons she still used her given last name, López del Campo. Those of us who saw her timidly climb the stairs and enter the last shack, which served as our classroom, with her butterfly notebook pressed to her chest and her gaze glued to her sun-toasted legs, never imagined that in less than ten years she’d be proclaimed the artistic heir to Joaquín Murrieta, a figure shrouded in dustbut fondly remembered within the Mexican communities settled in the central lands of California.
The wish is always that we’d walk in,
Give each other bear hugs,
Tight and unencumbered,
Nothing of my body shameful,
That he’d cradle my face in his palms
And smile wide, in awe of who I’ve become,
That I’d go to him twice a year
To help me unknot something of my heart
When it broke.
Something was crawling underneath Helen’s skin. Or wasn’t? Or was? She leaned in closer to her bathroom mirror and squinted at the S-shaped bump, red and angry around the border, with an edge of self-disgust. It had been there for two days. First, tucked timidly underneath her eyebrow, easily mistaken for an irritated hair follicle, which, no big deal, but now, if her eyes weren’t playing tricks, it had scooted its way smack-dab in the center of her forehead, spotlighted by the offensive bulb overhead. Could it have been something she ate? That rubbery shrimp in the food-court lo mein? Or an unwitting encounter with some poisonous leaf in Punta Cana last week? When she stumbled into that bush after one too many coladas? She thought of texting Bob to see if any curious growths had appeared on his pallid body but decided she’d rather physically suffer than emotionally exhaust herself in a forced flirtatious exchange that would no doubt end with a dinner invitation she’d say yes to, even though the idea repulsed her.
This fall, half of The Common’s new issue will be dedicated to a portfolio of writing and art from the farmworker community: over a hundred pages filled with the stories, essays, poems, and artwork of immigrant agricultural workers. The portfolio, co-edited by Miguel M. Morales, highlights the work of twenty-seven contributors with roots in this community.
An online portfolio will also accompany the print issue, giving more space for these important perspectives. This feature is the first of several that will publish throughout the fall. Click the FARMWORKER tag at the bottom of the page to read more, as pieces are added.
Poetry Feature: Poems from the Immigrant Farmworker Community