Tag Archives: humanity

Frederico’s Ghost

The past will haunt you. We must treat every individual as if they were as important as everyone else. Don’t let rumors or what you think your reputation may suffer in the eyes of those who speak without knowledge. Gather more than one viewpoint, gather many. Don’t hold anyone or anything hostage to serve yourself or your pocket. Don’t withhold another’s paycheck or what is needed to prosper and live free.

Federico’s Ghost                                      Martín Espada

The story is
that whole families of fruitpickers
still crept between the furrows
of the field at dusk,
when for reasons of whiskey or whatever

the cropduster plane sprayed anyway,

floating a pesticide drizzle
over the pickers
who thrashed like dark birds
in a glistening white net,
except for Federico,
a skinny boy who stood apart
in his own green row,
and, knowing the pilot
would not understand in Spanish
that he was the son of a whore,
instead jerked his arm
and thrust an obscene finger.


The pilot understood.
He circled the plane and sprayed again,

watching a fine gauze of poison
drift over the brown bodies
that cowered and scurried on the ground,

and aiming for Federico,
leaving the skin beneath his shirt
wet and blistered,
but still pumping his finger at the sky.


After Federico died,
rumors at the labor camp
told of tomatoes picked and smashed at night,

growers muttering of vandal children
or communists in camp,
first threatening to call Immigration,

then promising every Sunday off
if only the smashing of tomatoes would stop.


Still tomatoes were picked and squashed

in the dark,
and the old women in camp
said it was Federico,

laboring after sundown
to cool the burns on his arms,

flinging tomatoes
at the cropduster
that hummed like a mosquito

lost in his ear,
and kept his soul awake.

Experiment in Tuskegee

In the south we struggle with what to be proud of for we are passionate people who are identified with a dark past.  We hold love and anger and try to go forward with our eyes open/opened. Somewhere in there lies our hope for a better and more honest future.

Experiment in Tuskegee                                                                                  Van Potter


“Syphilis Victims in the U. S. Study Went Untreated for 40 Years”

New York Times, July 26, 1972


Jeremiah Jones

May 28, 1970


Doctor Jim,

Time after time,

I lie on your cold, white table,

and let you give me shots

for the bad blood you say I have.

Yet the tiredness rides my back

and I can’t work my land no more.

The chancre claws up

through the skin of my private place,

and the sores eat my face and hands,

and make my wife turn away.


Dr. Jim Willis

May 28, 1970 journal entry


This morning, I reflect on myself,

that 10-year-old boy hovering over a faceless fly

stunned and lying in a white saucer

on a tree stump in the back yard.

I de-wing the specimen and observe how it writhes, jerks,

pops up from the plate like a kernel in a hot skillet.

I note it takes thirty minutes for the insect to die.

Then I open the door of my office,

look through glass doors and down the corridor

at the dusty sharecroppers

sitting on benches, papering the walls,

waiting for my wonder treatment.

I turn, nod to my nurse,

and she says, “Next.”