The Bringers of Bread

In the prenatal, rooster-summoned morning,
my brother and I awaken and slip
through our mosquito nets as darkness
fades slowly into blue-and-bluer.

We walk into the dreamy air
not before grabbing the few pesos and centavos 
waiting for us on top of our mother's bureau.

The gray road and the click-clack of our slippers:
we know at the end of both is the bakery.
Until then, we pounce on stray cats and birds.

We play leapfrog, leaping over each other's
bent body: bodies that evolved from the same
womb churning into one rolling animal.

At the bakery, we bask in the clean scent
of newly baked pan de sal, providers that we are.
We press the brown bags to our hunter's
breasts and let the warmth seep beneath our ribs.

:: Joseph O. Legaspi, Imago (2007)


Penny Men

(for Emiliano, who came to live, and die, picking grapes)

These are the men from Mexico's boot, the ones
who fell out from a hole in its bottom. They are bony
but well-attached as scissors. When they become
hungrier, they will cut their own stomachs
in half. They come to live like loose change

in a country that drops its pennies
and leaves them there; in a country whose jingle
of coins muffles the sound of backbones cracking.
These men squeezed through the gate, that slot,
and found the backroads with crosses

on which the grapevines wave their leaves
like dollar bills. Green, edible, the vineyards
promise to feed--to stuff--their pockets
though the cups of wine aren't theirs
to drink. Thirst concerns the boss no more than heat,

nor how much of it garlands each head.
After work, their faces glow sun-flat; they resemble
copper centenarios with dust instead of a bridge
over the nose, with a rust-heavy hinge for a mouth.
These faces promise to reveal exotic lands

and languages. But the bridges are impassable,
distant as the waters of a river on a map,
and the tongues are too tired to speak.
They sit beneath the pines for shade,
their heat-suffused hair steaming off. Precipitations

of sweat clean off their arms, those thin pokers
that have been stirring ash all day. They express no
criticism here, no shame. Their ears build up dirt
into stones inside their wells, at times confusing
the memory of a woman who speaks inside their sleep.

To stretch out the afternoon breeze, they play
blackjack and twenty-one, gambling bottle caps
instead of silver. Slowly, the darkness in their eyes
blends with the shadows; the sparkle of the caps
and beer can tabs ascends into the canopy of sky.

Beds are too luxurious; back seats too cramped
and sticky in summer. The men prefer cool car hoods,
their own hands for pillows, the privacy of twilight.
The moon, their second mother, knits their sleeping
coats, which always fade away with stars.

Some dawns, not all the men wake up so quickly.
One man always sinks too deep in dreams, clinging
to the woman he wishes he'd never left--the woman
who throws her voice toward the North, whose words
stir up a breeze for all the men below.

:: Rigoberto Gonzalez, in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review #6 (1995)


Cast Iron Distict at Dawn

Far down the street an engine curses and starts.
The sound startles pigeons, waking to pick
crumbs in the gutter, their undisturbed hour.
Sunday: no one is going to work.
All down the wide street no one is walking.
A torn poster blown against a loft window
draws the eye upward; note
the building's outmoded grace which survives neglect,
the high-arched windows and generous double doors.
The warehouses closed today, the rooms
where women and children sewed, bent-backed from dawn
through evening, empty for years now and dark as ever.
Here--iron grilles locked against storefronts--
the newsstand's shuttered front denies responsibility
and the long street never turns to look back.
It is a sinister hour, after all. In doorways
men are waking who begrudge the couples upstairs
their morning sleep. Still, morning unaware
comes with its blue light into the city--
a bloodless sky whose light arrives modestly,
evenly in every corner with a true innocence
that does not discriminate. The air is cool,
smell of the sea nearby, the expectation of gulls.
Trees in the park shake their leafless branches
tenderly, and the sunken amphitheatre
around the fountain, and the stones arranged
in their lovely diagonals, invite you. This hour
belongs to no one. Its peacefulness disturbs you
because it is uncommitted, like the dream
in which only you survive the holocaust,
like your own future which you will make out of streets,
buildings, forgotten faces, faces not yet imagined.

:: Cynthia Huntington, The Fish-Wife (1986)


Running the Bulldozer at the State Street Dump

Fifty-two years earlier
I would have saved Rommel
in the African desert.
Instead, I inhale boxcars of stink
as gulls circle with the litter
and scout fresh garbage.
The ground is soft as cake
where my tracks dig
down into the buried heaps.
Litter snares in the north fence
and sunlight finds broken glass
where junkmen dig for prizes,
browse and poke at garbage,
toss mangled valuables
into the backs of their ancient pickups.
Commanding small destinies,
I stand before the field
of dump trucks; they are slow movements
on a map. The diesel smoke
chokes upward as I grind
this monster into a crawl.
The dozer's bucket is a gravedigger's hand,
and all the garbage is nervous.

:: Michael Catherwood, in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review #6 (1995)