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Septiembre 2014


A las doce at Seven-Eleven

They descend on Seven-Eleven at noon
in sus trocas, with three in the cab and
three more in the bed, cansados after
six hours of manual labor,
para calentar su lonche,
stored in Tupperware or on plates wrapped in tinfoil,
carried unapologetically in plastic bags
obtained during the weekly outing to
Carnaval or Fiesta,
tied around the handles,
not once, but two or three times,
quién sabe por qué.
They huddle around the microwave
that gringos use for heating
store-bought burritos
the irony certainly escapes them
and while they unwrap
last night’s enchiladas or carne guisada,
accompanied perhaps by arroz y frijoles,
prepared con cariño by their
wives, and in some cases, mothers,
they fill Big Gulp cups with Fanta or Coca Cola,
and search for Conchas or Mantecadas,
made by Bimbo, S.A.,
sweet reminders del sabor de México,
pastries bought for 3 or 4 pesos at home,
and at least a dollar twenty-nine in the good ol’ USofA,
a day’s wage in Tamaulipas or Chihuahua,
just one way they pay for a better life
al otro lado del Bravo.

Kingsville, 1970

            For Ron Guest

Éramos niños y nada más.
We were children and nothing more.
We ran down narrow caliche streets
where passing Coca-Cola trucks raised clouds of dust,
leaving in their wake gritos y toses
and stinging eyes and bead necklaces
around tiny sweat-soaked necks,
necklaces that would disappear
in every bathtub in the barrio by 10 p.m.
(That’s 9 o’clock on school nights.)
Beneath flickering street lights and dancing fireflies
we played al escondite,
hiding behind el vecino’s Rambler,
bought new in 1965, correteando between
cookie-cutter houses and old beat-up garbage cans,
stopping long enough to buy raspados
at don Cenaido’s snow-cone stand
on the corner of la calle Ella,
sometimes raspberry y a veces de fresa.
And while los viejos played dominoes
and smoked cigars on front porches,
nuestras abuelas swept the caliche dust
that floated in through open windows
from once-red linoleum floors
now faded from daily moppings
with no sé cuántos galones de Clorox.
It’s funny how bleach erases everything but memories.

Oda a los jardineros

They wake up before sunrise
and pile into sus trocas
four in the cab
and five more huddling in the bed
crouching between lawnmowers
and weed eaters then drive
from Oak Cliff to Frisco
from south to north
(the geography of poverty
never changes)
dos horas ida y vuelta
to mow manicured lawns
and prune Japanese Maples
and Mexican Plums
(en México la ciruela se come)
in front of houses they could
never afford and plant
Mexican Heather
beside backyard patios
slabs of polished concrete
where gringosuse gas grills
to cook barbeque
pero no es lo mismo que barbacoa
and sip botellas de Corona Light
con trocitos de limón verde
on Saturday nights
y los domingos por la tarde.
In Mexico patios don’t have concrete
or designer trees that cost
a month’s wages
just dirt and aguacates
y a veces un limero.

Sweat Backs
They call them wetbacks, mojados,
because they cross the Rio Grande River.
(The tautology escapes them.)
En México hay baches más profundos.
Cuando pisan el agua podrida
se mojan los pies
o cuando mucho sus piernas
pero jamás la espalda.
They hold their arms above their heads
carrying scraps of clothes wrapped
in plastic bags con unas
chanclas y fotos amarillentas,
creased from top to bottom or
side to side remnants of a life decreed
by circumstance. They leave behind
sus familias para buscar una vida mejor
eager to work for a living wage
wading across so they can wait on
gringos who drink bottled water
because it’s chic not out of
a microbial fear. They build houses
de sol a sol, their undocumented skin
soaked with sweat beads running down
aquiline faces and indentured bodies.
La vieja del patrón no deja
que se quiten las playeras
no matter how hot it is.  So they
wear their once-white t-shirts
que ni el cloro les quita
las manchas de sudor left by
the bitter sweat-soaked backs
that politics not DNA ordained
should break in service of
someone’s American dream home.

Las canchas de tenis

He picks up trash (even the most invisible
of cigarette butts) and rakes cuttings
on the manicured lawn
next to the private tennis court.
Just a few miles south, his yarda is littered
(there’s not a word for litter in Spanish)
with cans and bottles and a ’74 Nova
that hasn’t run in un chingo de años.
No va means it doesn’t go in Spanish.
(The irony doesn’t escape him.)
There’s a tennis court down the block
in the neighborhood park
next to the Latino cultural center
with half-erased lines and a metal net that sags
so far down hasta los más chicos la pueden saltar.
And at the end of the night, he sits on the porche
tomando una Bud Light while his vieja
irons his green uniform con cuidado
making sure the creases are as straight
as the pin stripes on his 2014 F150
with a miniature of la Virgen hanging
from the rearview mirror
and his last name stenciled proudly
on the back window so everyone will know it:


© All rights reserved George Henson

henson-george-270-2012-01George Henson is literary translator based in Dallas, Texas. George has translated two short story collections, Elena Poniatowska’s The Heart of the Artichoke and Luis Jorge Boone’s The Cannibal Night. Other translations, of writers Andrés Neuman, Miguel Barnet, Alberto Chimal, Sergio Pitol, and Leonardo Padura, have appeared in World Literature Today, The Literary Review, Words Without Borders, and The Kenyon Review. His translation of Miguel Barnet’s “Fátima, Queen of the Night” was featured on and Paragraph Shorts.

George Henson es un traductor literario radicado en Dallas, Texas. Ha traducido dos colecciones de cuentos, Tlapalería de Elena Poniatowska y La noche caníbal de Luis Jorge Boone. Sus otras traducciones, de los ecritores Andrés Neuman, Miguel Barnet, Alberto Chimal, Sergio Pitol y Leonardo Padura, han aparecido en las revistas World Literature Today, The Literary Review, Words Without Borders y The Kenyon Review. Su traducción de “Fátima, o el Parque de la Fraternidad” de Miguel Barnet fue resaltada en los sitios y Paragraph Shorts.

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