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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.

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