As dawn breaks through the crimson curtains,
you rise, kiss Amá goodbye, the only time
I see you do this, drive away,
circles of dust and tire marks remain.
You return four months later with the trunk full
of crates of strawberries peaches, apricots,
grapes, and plums. The nectar seduces our lips,
seeps through our fingers. Our nights fill
with dreams of this Garden hidden
in the center of the valley.
Most nights you sit in the dark, whisper
about a scornful sun, of being forced
by a landowner to hold a blue whistle
between your lips so you won’t be tempted
to consume the fruits you pick. The sound
of whistles merged with the rustle of the wind
fills the fields like a bird song.
How the strawberries bleed onto your cut,
blistered hands. How people are plucked
from trees by the immigration police. How rows
of men lie down to rest at night with love letters,
photographs planted above their chest.
Erika Ayón emigrated from Mexico when she was five years old, grew up in South Central Los Angeles and graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in English. She was selected as a 2009 Rosenthal Emerging Voices Fellow and has taught poetry to middle and high school students.
These poems by some of L.A.’s finest poets are intended to help Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti look closely at our city and listen with care to its diverse voices, from janitors to sidewalk fruit sellers to donut shop insomniacs. They are also an antidote to the platitudes of the campaign trail, and a reminder that the best political speech—and acts—can tap into people’s deepest emotions and aspirations.