All posts tagged: Issue 26

USA Portraits

Artwork and introduction by NARSISO MARTINEZ

A portrait of a man painted on a spinach boxTender Leaves (2021). Ink, charcoal, and gold leaf on cardboard produce box (52.50 x 62.50 in). Photo by Yubo Dong.

Introduction

Through my art, I intend to highlight the difficult reality faced by American farmworkers, a workforce essential to American life consisting of men and women almost wholly of insecure immigration status. This status makes them vulnerable to predatory practices from agribusiness. I am a former farmworker myself; after immigrating to the United States from a small community outside of Oaxaca, Mexico, I worked nine seasons in the fields of Eastern Washington state to pay for my undergraduate and graduate degrees.

I seek to honor farmworkers and reveal the difficult working conditions they face. Their portraits and scenes from the fields are executed on found produce boxes. When I nest images of farmworkers amidst the colorful brand names and illustrations of agricultural corporations, I hope to help the viewer make a connection, or a disconnection rather, and start creating consciousness about the people that farm their food.

USA Portraits
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The Coyotes

By JULIA LISELLA

The coyote ambles down the middle of Chester Street
and I mistake it for its domestic cousins
but it’s stouter, a strange gray white,
directionless, undecided. My dog may know
it’s not a dog because he stares blankly back at it
without his temperamental bark and growl.

The Coyotes
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California Obscura

By AMANDA MEI KIM

In 1976, when I was eight years old, my Korean American father, a produce wholesaler and former farmworker, decided to become a full-time farmer. My Japanese American mother, descended from a long line of farmers and farmworkers, wanted it too. They had spent their childhoods dreaming of a home on the land, so we moved from Los Angeles to a tenant farm thirty-five miles away.

California Obscura
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Sisters

By MIGUEL M. MORALES
with Deb Morales, MyLinda Morales Hutchings, Grace Morales

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.

Sisters
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Double Infinity

By MARIA TERRONE

On 88th, the street where I lived as a girl when an hour could seem an eternity, it would be years before I met the young man who pointed out that those numbers, turned on their sides, had a special meaning. What meaning? I wondered and pondered the two unbroken loops pinched at their centers, forever returning to themselves like a pair of ice skaters tracing figure eights into a state of bliss. I wondered if he thought that love is infinite, that our souls will live forever, that sky even on crystalline days moves into unseeable endless space. I was thinking that the iris of his hazel eyes pulled me into a place where I could feel lost or float before thought was possible, as if in vitro. I no longer live on 88th Street, having left double infinity in its impossible realm. Because infinity cannot be multiplied or divided—infinity just is. Still, I was grateful that I didn’t live on Main Street or Elm, and the young man I married found meaning on that finite block in Queens where he found me.

Double Infinity
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Guinea Pig Suite

By JONATHAN MOODY

      I.      Lexapro
 
Like a booster detached from a shuttle, my body 
Ended up in an ocean while fog enshrouded my mind. 
Xanax never made me feel that unsteady; it just didn’t
Agree with Lamictal. I was glad my wife could cease 
Preparing herself mentally before coming home; I’d been a
Rakshasa for months & appeared to be normal
Overnight, but the low dose made me immune to emotion.

Guinea Pig Suite
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Re(education)

By LIZBETH LUEVANO

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

Re(education)
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