Poetry Feature: Poems from the Immigrant Farmworker Community


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.

Photo of horses looking over a fence on a misty day, rolling hills in distance.
Photo of a man covering his eyes in the interior of a truck on a rainy day.

Photos by Jordan Escobar.


Jordan Escobar

Jordan Escobar is a writer and former farm laborer from Central California. He is the author of the chapbook Men With the Throats of Birds (CutBank Books). He is a 2023 winner of the St. Botolph Emerging Artist Award and a 2022 Djanikian Scholar in Poetry. He has been published in many journals including Prairie Schooner, Zone 3, the Cortland Review and elsewhere. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and his work has been recognized by the Boston Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture. He currently teaches at Emerson College and Babson College.


by Jordan Escobar

In his voice, there is a landscape:
rain padding dusty hoofprints,

wet manes, heavy heads
hung over rusting fencelines,

There is some Spanish, some English,
and some other words only spoken to horses

in a moment of need. A moment of explanation,
that this world is a shifting body,

growing, laboring, breathing.
The breath of a hillside,

of turkey vultures and feral hogs.
The breath of tule fog

rolling out between the grapevines
and rows of alfalfa,

of a muddy morning spent unloading
soggy timothy from the back of a pickup.

He rubs his eyes and yawns,
his mouth as vacuous as the overhead sky,

and all the geldings line up
eager with anticipation to consume.


by Jordan Escobar

Sunlight creaks over the blackened hills,

just enough light to see ladders

angled against limbs. Enough to see

limbs angled against branches, to see buckets

placed among roots. The rising of hands,

the wringing of day. Skin and bark dressed with dew.

To see the harvest, the flesh, the bones, noiselessly

ascend, like doves on their winter flights.

The horizon spills, ripe with stonefruit. Green, hardened,

puckered. To the press. To be squeezed. To be drained.

So many lives threshed into that singular and rare flavor.


Oswaldo Vargas

Oswaldo Vargas is a former farmworker, a graduate from the University of California, Davis, a Pushcart Prize nominee and a 2021 recipient of the Undocupoets Fellowship. Anthology features include Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color, Puro Chicanx Writers of the 21st Century, and Imaniman: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands. His work can also be seen in places like Narrative Magazine, Huizache, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, and The Louisville Review. He lives and dreams in Sacramento, California.

by Oswaldo Vargas

We joked about road
head on the regular.
                       on the logistics
of that
and on the hop from the fields      to some house on a hill,

In triple-digit heat we thrived,
smoldered in dry grass to set fires, name them after each other.

Slow danced outside when the county
warned of a storm,
counting out the seconds between thunder flash and clap.

You were close.      I got closer
till the gap closed                   and we could jump over.

One shift, we found snakeskin
fresher than we were that
The corn snake hid and I copied it, yes I
did, I hid in the trailer,
          the thing that embarrassed you the most,

where the wind set up shop
to sell the sleep it stole back to you.

I draped the snakeskin over my head.
           From your angle, I look like a bride
and I need you to pull back my veil, again again and again.


Arturo Castellanos Jr.

Arturo Castellanos Jr. is a spoken word artist from the Eastern Coachella Valley. He is one of the founders of Props 2 Poetry, a collective of poets and writers focused on creating communal spaces in the Valley. They host writing workshops and open mics to inspire change in their communities.

The poem appears in both Spanish and English. It was translated from the Spanish by JENNIFER ACKER, editor in chief of The Common.


by Arturo Castellanos Jr.

Un hombre ya mayor,
Con su sombrero blanco,
Su bastón de madera,
Y sus guaraches de hule,
Está sentando dentro de un Autobús

Con su mirada fija,
Mientras miraba hace afuera de la ventana,
Dio un suspiro.

Al ver los files vasillos después de una cosecha.
Los terrenos llenos de tierra,
Ya se acabó la temporada.

Él todavía recuerda todas las semillas que él había plantado,
Les dio agua y miro crecer.

Él se recuerda las frutas dulces.
Las uvas y la fresas que él ayudó a florecer.

Todos esos años,
Todas esas temporadas,
Todo ese tiempo pasaba por sus ojos en medio de segundos.

Ahora solo queda tierra,
Nomás un puño de tierra.

Nada más y nada menos.

Pero dime,
Qué más hay que esperar de la vida…

Que la memoria,
De una buena cosecha.


by Arturo Castellanos Jr. 
Translated by Jennifer Acker

A man already older
   With his white sombrero,
   His wooden cane,
   And his rubber guaraches,
   Is seated inside un autobús.

With his fixed gaze
   Looking outside the window
   He let out a sigh.

Seeing the empty rows after a harvest.
   The fields full of earth,
   The season is already over.

He still remembers all the seeds that he has planted,
   He gave them water and watched them grow.

He remembers the sweet fruit.
   The grapes and the strawberries that he helped to flower.

All those years
All those seasons,
All that time passed before his eyes in a matter of seconds.

Now only the earth remains,
No more than a fist of earth.

Nothing more and nothing less.

But tell me
What more can you expect from life…

But the memory
Of a good harvest.


Miguel M. Morales 

Miguel M. Morales grew up in Texas working as a migrant and seasonal farmworker. Selected as a finalist for the 2023-2026 Poet Laureate of Kansas, he is a two-time Lambda Literary Fellow and an alum of VONA/Voices and of the Macondo Writers Workshops. Miguel’s work appears in the anthologies Imaniman: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands, Primera Página: Poetry from the Latino Heartland, Cuentos del Centro: Stories from the Latino Heartland, From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction, and The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce. His work has been published in Duende Journal, Acentos Review, Green Mountains Review, Texas Poetry Review, Hawai’i Review, and World Literature Today, among other journals. Miguel is the co-editor of Pulse/Pulso: In Remembrance of Orlando and of Fat & Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives, which was named the 2021 Book of the Year by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. Miguel has earned several awards including the Society of Professional Journalists’ First Amendment Award. Follow Miguel at @TrustMiguel on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Miguel is co-editor of the farmworker portfolio.

by Miguel M. Morales

Days into the promise of a new year, resolutions plentiful, blossoming,
seven farmworkers were shot and killed harvesting mushrooms in Half Moon Bay.

Those of us who sprouted from families, whose hands and backs worked the land,
waited for news of our farmworker siblings.

We waited for empathetic profiles eulogizing our dead and allowing us to mourn
with their families and with our farmworker community.

We waited for stories offering insight into their humanity, of those they left behind.
We waited to learn of their accomplishments and aspirations.

Instead, we got bullet points listing their names, ages, perhaps countries of origin
or fragmented descriptions of their relationships.

They weren’t deemed worthy of the standard mass shooting reporting.
Just bullet points, bulleted points, for these victims—another act of violence.

There were no thoughts and prayers from political leaders for our farmworkers
whose labor brought food to our tables and whose lives lifted the community.

Those of us who sprouted from families, whose hands and backs worked the land,
know that violence has always been part of our story.

The continuous violence of the burning sun, of the numbing frost, of dehydration,
of the carcinogenic pesticides, of wildfires, of sexual assault,

of child labor, of threats of deportation, of poverty, of exploitation, of dehumanization,
of sharpened machetes, spades, knives, hoes, shears… and of guns.

Guns that killed farmworkers from the early days of organizing for fair wages
to the mass shootings and workplace violence of today.

Our workplace has always been violent. And you’ve always ignored it.

Poetry Feature: Poems from the Immigrant Farmworker Community

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