I can’t imagine poetry

           in this vast, flat land,

           this bowl-shaped valley

           whose rivers are harnessed

           to feed crops and whose poverty

           sprouts like weeds between fields

           of stooped laborers,

           said the visiting professor of poetry,

           frowning at the sprawling San Joaquin

           as if it lacked any source, any hope of inspiration.  


           Leave your imagination at home, I urged.

           Take a ride on a crowded van of farm workers

            rumbling through the darkness before dawn,

            men who have little time for words, overworked

            as the soil, their hands calloused and blunt

            from picking asparagus and lettuce,

            cherries, strawberries, peaches and plums

            whose consumers, remote from the handiwork,  

           assume food comes to life for them on demand

             in the magical aisles of supermarkets. 


            Poems also grow in these fields,

            resilient despite heat and dust,

            despite the acrid air of wildfires 

            and increasing cycles of drought 

            that warn us an age of peril has commenced

            and the life we take for granted is passing.

            As if you could forget that

            when you sit down to write     

            about this valley, this heartland

            whose poems are also part of the earth

            and come to your hand with no easy labor.

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One Comment

  • I really like your poem! It invoked a sense of history in San Joaquin! Great use of imagery and juxtaposition of the beauty vs. the hardship of the region. Good job.

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