By LUPE MENDEZ
Todo mi maíz se llevó, ni pa’comer me dejó
—Luis Pérez Meza
Esas tierras del rincón,
I look at them como un buey pando,
feeling the dry earth, crunch under
my boots. Es Julio, y si sigue asi,
dirán que es sequía. I pray it is not.
For now, I will do
what we have always done. I will work
like my father él y sus mandados.
En las labores. We will fix a fence,
the barbed wire, cut, retwist, cut,
retwist until a new post is put in place.
Levantamos rostros al ver las nubes,
all gray, completamente llenos de agua,
but it isn’t meant for our hectares.
Quizás mañana mijo.
He looks at me. He says,
vente, algo rapidito. We go
into the fields. Rows of little milpitas
all around us. I know what we must do.
We must bend over, pull up the weeds,
all the milpitas that are growing wild,
arancalas viejo, my father says. I have canas.
And a belly. But my body remembers.
Esta tierra. This land, these hileras.
48 hileras to traverse, mano over mano—
pull everything that does not follow the rows.
It takes us over an hour. We laugh.
I remember the feel dry earth
in my clutches. The clump of green
entre mis dedos, dusting
the roots on the thighs of my pants,
returning soil to soil.
This would have been done in 30 minutes
if I was a kid. I would have earned 5 pesos
and a Pepsi.
Hey, I say, me duele la espalda.
My father laughs and says
something about his rodillas. But we do.
We pick the 2 hectáreas clean. We talk
about how much my aunt will make
from this cosecha de elote. Suficiente
para pagarle a alguien más joven
que puede arrancar esta jodida yerba.
—que esta yunta ya ni anda.
Lupe Mendez is a writer, educator, and activist originally from Galveston, Texas. He is the author of Why I Am Like Tequila, winner of the 2019 Robertson Award from the Texas Institute of Letters. He is published across Texas and beyond. He teaches in Houston and was selected as Texas Poet Laureate for 2022–2023.