Thursday, April 19, 2012


New Berlin Wall

My friend became the head of the house at nine –
His father’s death, an ambiguous tragedy.  The oldest
Of three boys, his youth became a message on a restroom
Wall, painted over by the expectations of machismo –
Carving hard lines on his face.

His school textbooks replaced by weekly paychecks,
Watching the fields, learning the orchards – he caught on
Quickly and appreciated each experience – as his brothers
Lazed in that town in central Mexico.  His mother worked
Hard and cried often.

Three years before his classmates’ quinceaneros,
Ramone left behind the only home, the only house,
He had ever known, moving to the States, the South, where
The land needed tending.

A dozen years old, his were hands agile, his eyes fixed ahead,
His demeanor quiet, his mind quick and thoughtful - filled
With lessons he could not have learned from a book.
His days start early but go by quickly.  His nights are dark
And long on his single mattress beneath Our Lady Guadalupe. 
All the paychecks returning to that town in central Mexico.

He rarely speaks of home.  But when he does,
His words are slow, delicate and deliberate, his accent
Turns to the south.  I think of the new Berlin Wall
Growing higher each day, his family still below
That border.  Their seasons – el otono, la primavera,
El verano.  His seasons – apple, strawberry, tobacco, 
Sweet potato.  When he speaks of the fields, his accident could be
Mistaken for a redneck’s.  I wander to that late night in a diner
When a wolf in coyote clothing glared at Ramone
Stating with certainty, You are nothing. But I know
You are a man your mother would be proud of.

Now an old man at 27, he works at a family-owned restaurant –
A chef – proudly turning those apples, strawberries, sweet potatoes
Into meals for families dressed in their Sunday best, sitting
Complacent, like me with this pen in my hand.  But he takes
The lessons of his life and creates his American dream.

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