Maria Luisa Arroyo
Barreras - Poem by Maria Luisa Arroyo
Mami called us away from the roach trap line
where novice factory workers, fresh from the island,
and I, fresh from a semester in Germany,
poked protruding yellow chunks of roach bait
back into traps with long stem Q-tips
we dunked in alcohol.
Another safety meeting. My first.
El jefe de la factoría faced us
and heard nothing but the silence
of women hablando y bochincheando
in Tidy-Bowl blue uniforms. 'Safety shoes should….
Factory goggles are…. Hairnets must….'
All the Spanish he knew could have fit
into one of those trampas, too little to translate
what Flora, Aida and Teresa needed to know.
A heavy box fell and crushed a few of Flora's
dedos del pie. Alcohol splashed into Aida's ojos.
The uncovered motor yanked out of Teresa's trenzas.
I broke rank and stood. 'If safety is first, they why
aren't your updates translated into Spanish? '
Uniform blue shrank away from me, from my nasal twang,
from that language that sounds as if I were chewing
papas calientes o mucho chicle. For once,
though, my mother was proud of my English.
El jefe told me that I could have been promoted
to the shampoo line.
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