For José M. Hernández
(Inspired by a newspaper headline about the Mexican-American NASA astronaut
who was on the Discovery space shuttle in September 2009 and once
worked as a child laborer in the fields of California, picking strawberries)
The boy squatting with a wood and wire crate
In Salinas has finally risen
Above his station, California almost
Beautiful from this distance. Now when he bends
To the heavy glass he’s hurtling through
Vacuum cold as night on the desert
When coyotes bring the families across
In rust gnawed pick ups and then on foot.
He’s glossing over vast tracts of years, entire lives
In dirt and of dirt, obligations. He orbits
His parents talking low in their bed,
His mother’s sorrow the high pitch of rain
Against the hut’s metal blinds. In zero
Gravity the work is easy; nothing weighs
On the heart. He rides openly, needn’t hide
In back with shovels under a tarp.
The earth is no longer soil but rainbow blue
And round as fruit. His itinerant efforts pay back
In stars. Now heaven is mestizo, offers
Fine shades, not just Milky Way black and white.
Let the good news fall gently back to earth.
Let today’s harvest be measured not in pounds
But raised eyes, and miles, and light.
© 2009 by David Moolten
Used with the author's permission