When you’re not packing cherries,      you pass out crowns of Crossandra flowers

               to every coworker who’s crossed a border.

You think of your father,        when he said no to you moving to the city to study chemistry.

               So you went north, to study fruit instead.

Which ones are fit for a mouth,          which ones to juice for the evening toast,

               the first step before the ladies can follow your lead               between the cherry trees.

A boy, in the back of some car,          sees figures in the orchard.

               He focuses on the spaces between rows one too many times again.

This time,        he can hear the cheers

               when you rattle off every element of the periodic table

in one breath.


Oswaldo Vargas is a former farmworker and a 2021 Undocupoets Fellowship recipient. He has been anthologized in Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color and published in Narrative Magazine and Academy of American Poets’ “Poem-A-Day” (among other publications). He lives and dreams in Sacramento, California.

[Purchase Issue 26 here.]


Related Posts

Image of a sunflower head

Translation: to and back

hand-picked grains they are, without any defect, / as once we were, poised, full of love // in the face of death, I am saying to you: / love me as if there will never be enough light / for us to find each other in this world // love me as long as we believe / that death turns a blind eye to us.

many empty bottles

June 2024 Poetry Feature: New Poems by Our Contributors

We were at a long table, candles flickering in the breeze, / outside on the deck that overlooks the bay, which was black / and tinseled where moonlight fell on the wrinkled silk / of reflected stars shivering with the water.

Messy desk in an office

May 2024 Poetry Feature: Pissed-Off Ars Poetica Sonnet Crown

Fuck you, if I want to put a bomb in my poem / I’ll put a bomb there, & in the first line. / Granted, I might want a nice reverse neutron bomb / that kills only buildings while sparing our genome / but—unglue the whole status-quo thing, / the canon can-or-can’t do?