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Poem in response to No Poverty
January 2018
By Jenny Li
Photo Credit:
Inspired by "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" by Wallace Stevens


Among twenty sleeping campesinos,

The only thing moving 

Was the pencil of a girl.



She was of three truths

Like a notebook 

In which there are three rings.



The girl grew in a wooden shack.

It was a small part of the earth.



A row of crates and a migrant farmer 

Are one. 

A dream, an education, and a campesino child 

Are one.



She does not know which to prefer,

The beauty of her father’s strong shoulders

Or the beauty of Huckleberry Finn,

The whistle ending the work day 

Or just after.



The girl filled the small table

With her notebooks.

Her mother’s bent back

Ached in the negative space of bushels.

The shadow of her mother loomed over the stove

Like blackbirds circling the field.



O thin walls of the school,

Why do you imagine flaxen-haired boys?

Do you not see how the girl

Writes with the hand

Of the scholars about you?



She knows Shakespeare’s sonnets

And the beautiful Pythagorean Theorem; 

But she knows, too,

That the camp 

Has taught her what she knows.



When her learning expands beyond the perimeters of the farm,

The girl marks the end

Of one of many cycles.



At the sight of the calloused hands   

Tending to the brown earth,

Even the hardened campesino   

Would cry out sharply.   



She walked across the tilled soil

In a wide-brimmed hat.   

Once, a fear pierced her,   

In that she mistook   

The shadow of her ancestors

For her own fate.   



The migrant worker is moving. 

The harvest must be ready for picking.   



It was picking season all summer long.

The girl was growing

And she will continue to grow.

The open notebook sat

In-between rows of corn.

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