By Blas Manuel De Luna
They had hit Ruben
with the high beams, had blinded
him so that the van
he was driving, full of Mexicans
going to pick tomatoes,
would have to stop. Ruben spun
the van into an irrigation ditch,
spun the five-year-old me awake
to immigration officers,
their batons already out,
already looking for the soft spots on the body,
to my mother being handcuffed
and dragged to a van, to my father
trying to show them our green cards.
They let us go. But Alvaro
was going back.
So was his brother Fernando.
So was their sister Sonia. Their mother
did not escape,
and so was going back. Their father
was somewhere in the field,
and was free. There were no great truths
revealed to me then. No wisdom
given to me by anyone. I was a child
who had seen what a piece of polished wood
could do to a face, who had seen his father
about to lose the one he loved, who had lost
some friends who would never return,
who, later that morning, bent
to the earth and went to work.
"Bent to the Earth" by Blas Manuel De Luna. From Bent to the Earth, © 2006 by Blas Manuel De Luna, published by Carnegie Mellon University Press.
Source: Bent to the Earth (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2006)
Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Blas Manuel De Luna worked alongside his parents and siblings in California’s agricultural fields while he was growing up in Madera, California. His first book, Bent To Earth, a 2006 National Book Critics Circle finalist, reflects on those experiences. In a Poetry profile, De Luna comments on the autobiographical tone of his poems, stating, “I’m not by nature the kind of person who reveals himself, but it just kind of happens in the poems—the willingness to go to the place where you’re revealed, but always in service of the poem, never in a purging kind of way.”