Es de madrugada.
It is dawn always dawn
the sun breaking through
the breaking of the soil.
The faint smell of rain from irrigated dirt
crusts of mud from the crop rows
comes home with my father
on his pants and beneath his fingernails.
He must change out of his work clothes
in the garage. His
contaminated by pesticide residue
from the rest of the family laundry.
works on the machines in the lettuce fields
wrapping the heads in thin printed plastic
covered in bright letters
meant to draw customers’ eyes.
She is proud of the smooth, seamless wrap,
the speed with which she can fill huge boxes.
These heads of lettuce are her art.
There are three of us children
taken out of bed before dawn,
wrapped in blankets.
We are carried out to the waiting car,
motor on, steam rising from the undercarriage.
I stay still
so I don’t have to walk.
My mother and my aunt talk.
I listen to their conversations,
leaning on my baby sister and brother.
The sitter waits for us,
bag of freshly cooked lunches,
box of cereal,
gallon of milk.
There are never sick days; there are never vacations
unless there is no work in the fields,
and even then, the work can be followed
hunted down, chased through
My father follows the crops,
with a tribe of seasonal bachelors.
Sending back wages,
minus the cost of rent,
the cost of food,
the high cost of separated lives.
My mother searches packing sheds
along the roads for work.
running for our lives.
Aideed Medina is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet, spoken word artist, and playwright, and daughter of Miguel and Lupita Medina of Salinas, California, and the United Farm Workers movement. She is the author of 31 Hummingbird and a forthcoming full-length poetry collection, Segmented Bodies, from Prickly Pear Press.