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Fall/Winter 2017

Wendy Barker


                (After Diego Rivera’s Mercado de Tehuantepec, 1930,                 Lithograph with yellow tone stone)
As if the sun shone right through these
                hard-muscled women. No details, no glistening
blond threads drifting from corn husks
                in the lemon light of this open market where
women hold baskets heavy as boulders
                and bargain face to face. Only their outlines,
and no hint of the future, of a girl
                like Lupita, who we learn on TV traveled
alone to Tijuana at thirteen and
                in seven years has worked at Sanyo, Deltech,
Panasonic, Tocabi, Santomi, Nypro,
                and Kelmax. She's been terminated again. Labor's
 cheaper in China. The river by her house
                foams with sewage, muriatic acid, lead, mercury,
and arsenic. She and Lourdes,
                Yesenia, and Vilany have assembled telephones,
batteries, oxygen masks, packages
                of pantyhose. Their skin sprouts red sores,
Lupita's nose bleeds in the air
                that smells like burnt plastic. Later, we watch
interviews with fifteen-year-old girls
                from Bogotá who, tired of standing on concrete
trimming roses under greenhouse-
                glassed heat, thorns slicing their arms, swallowed
plastic-wrapped balls of cocaine
                in one gulp like grapes and held their bowels
through flights to Mexico City,
                New York, through customs. One girl's mother
learned months later how
                her daughter lay down in a strange man's bath
in an eight-story building in the Bronx 
                where the sun couldn't reach through the walls,
where no one could see her
                bleed the tub scarlet after the plastic had torn
in her gut. I click the remote
                and the screen turns dark beside the shelf
that holds our pottery skull
                that someone in Oaxaca painted bright yellow.

Wendy Barker's sixth collection, One Blackbird at a Time, received the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry and was published by BkMk Press in 2015. Her fourth chapbook, From the Moon, Earth Is Blue, was published by Wings Press in 2015. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Best American Poetry 2013. Recipient of NEA and Rockefeller fellowships among other awards, she teaches at the University of Texas at San Antonio.



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