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By Juan Delgado

On my cutting board, I discovered them,

the tiniest of ants, roaming dots of lead.

At first, they were too few to classify, hiding

under crumbs, these scavengers of leftovers.

Admiring their labor, I immediately granted them

citizenship, these tailgaters of a kitchen’s routines.


In Miami, I had no stove, working far from my home.

My wife was a midnight call to San Bernardino.

While searching for crumbs, especially for

the taste of apricot jelly, they fell into a line

across my cutting board; I saw it again,

saw the line my sixth-grade teacher drew

on the board, pointing to each end.


While he planted himself on his desk, he leaned

his face toward us, telling us in a low voice:


“You don’t see it yet, you’re too young

still, but that line in front of you continues

infinitely on either side. And if there is

the slightest slope in that line, either way,

it will slowly begin to sag, then curve and veer

and eventually one end will find the other.


And lines, lines are never perfect, they are

like us, never completely straight. So just

imagine the searching that goes on all

around us, every day. And to happen on

that union is really to witness the most earthly

of forms you’ll ever get to know. If you’re lucky,

you’ll see that, even luckier if you’re part

of that union.”


Juan Delgado, "Peculiar Properties" from Vital Signs. Copyright © 2013 by Juan Delgado.  Reprinted by permission of Heyday Books.

Source: Vital Signs (Heyday Books, 2013)

Poet Bio

Mexican American poet Juan Delgado first started coming to the United States with his family when he was a child. He attended California State University, San Bernardino, where he studied accounting before discovering writing and majoring in English. He earned an MFA from the University of California, Irvine, where he was a Regents Fellow. Delgado’s work often portrays the realities of the immigrant experience, with its attendant poverty, hardships, and love. Delgado has been poet-in-residence at the University of Miami. He is a professor of creative writing, Chicano literature, and poetry at the California State University, San Bernardino.

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