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she ambles toward El Norte she remembers as she steps wasps & spiders webbed in between the corn in Fowler her mamá Concha's story the fire she fanned to clear the path through the thick burned stalks all this she almost-touches the blueberries in Skagit Washington & the line of men wrapped as cocoons and dark as amber flecked honey at the line the only store in Firebaugh where you can cash your check shirts twisted & whispered & upright down in Illinois in Cobden you go through the back door of Darden's bar to buy drinks for the foreman El Cuadrado María's coming home after returning to Atizapán de Zaragoza where she works at la Tortillería next to la Señora Muñóz it is an abyss smoked & metal flat and deep with nixtamal "Good pay in South Georgia" she says "I'll work the cucumbers" feet in water skin see-through peels & peels off & off then on Saturday bussed to Walmart bussed back to camp season after season the crossing higher alone or with groups of three the coyote says "I am leaving you here at the bottom of this mountain you Indians know how to climb" she remembers Guadalupe Ríos say from the edge of Santa María Corte in Nayarít "Nosotros los Peyoteros sabemos caminar We know how to walk" María de la Luz with an address in her net-bag her son who was taken many years ago 1346 D Street San Diego will she recognize Juan is the street still there who is he now who am I now who will he remember you this ancient trail of grandmothers & deportadas "I know how to walk" María de la Luz prays as she ascends the black mountain as she moves her body tiny as she listens to the sudden rush of things fall among thorns & hisses María de la Luz notices a band of light
"With this poem I weave the stories I have heard on the road as U.S. Poet Laureate and the stories I have heard travelling as a poet since 1970, as well as those of my own family. It is important to awaken to the realities of human beings that undergo heroic and tragic journeys from Mexico and the Américas en route to El Norte as migrant workers in the face of deportation. They follow family trails established even before the 'border' was installed in the early 20th Century." —Juan Felipe Herrera
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