Each pepper field is the same.
In each one I am a failed anthem.
I don't know English but
there is so little that needs translation.
This is my seventh name and still
I don't know of what country does death belong to.
For twelve hours I have picked the same pepper
in this field near Esparto.
Que dios quisiera ser fuente?
And of the thirteen men
only one will not run from La Migra.
If only I could choose what hurt,
like an inheritance of lost mothers.
So bound to the future of blood.
If I could walk again through the last footage
where the white dress loses its shape
there would be no need to learn English.
It seems like even moving my hands
to sort the peppers in this bin is a kind of running--
as is writing another name on my check--
as is holding still when the boss calls for me.
But this child will kneel on the dirt with my name,
with my small knife as I do.
She will sing to me because I was once her country.
She will take my picture,
both bride and groom,
like a country she's never seen.
The other workers are capable of a kind of grief
levitated only by the flock of birds on the branches.
I am only half sick if being sick is just a bone waiting to harden.
I was given a likeness of a star to possess.
The gift of shade and water.
I could be a saint.
Besides, there is no pleasure
that wasn't once abandoned to us out of boredom.
So what if I let the boss do what he wanted?
What if I could prune my body of its leaves?
I have a knife and a plant that I am paid one cent to bury.
My children will be born
rubbing peppers out of their eyes.
They will know there were choices.
Their puddles will shrink
and I will give them the knife
to make their own cameras.
I am sworn to the limits of birds
in this country that isn't mine.
If there was English in this unborn child already
I would ask her to tell them all my name
and look away as I cut it out from each of them.
MARCELO HERNANDEZ CASTILLO was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, and is a Canto Mundo fellow, a Zell postgraduate fellow, and the first undocumented student to graduate from the University of Michigan’s MFA program. He’s a Pushcart nominee and has received fellowships to attend the Squaw Writer’s Workshop and the Vermont Studio Center. Recent work can be found in Jubilat, New England Review, The Paris American, and Drunken Boat.
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH