They had hit Ruben
with the high beams, had blinded
him so that the van
he was driving, full of Mexicans
going to pick tomatoes,
would have to stop. Ruben spun
the van into an irrigation ditch,
spun the five-year-old me awake
to immigration officers,
their batons already out,
already looking for the soft spots on the body,
to my mother being handcuffed
and dragged to a van, to my father
trying to show them our green cards.
They let us go. But Alvaro
was going back.
So was his brother Fernando.
So was their sister Sonia. Their mother
did not escape,
and so was going back. Their father
was somewhere in the field,
and was free. There were no great truths
revealed to me then. No wisdom
given to me by anyone. I was a child
who had seen what a piece of polished wood
could do to a face, who had seen his father
about to lose the one he loved, who had lost
some friends who would never return,
who, later that morning, bent
to the earth and went to work.
Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Blas Manuel De Luna worked alongside his parents and siblings in California’s agricultural fields while he was growing up in Madera, California. His first book, Bent To Earth, a 2006 National Book Critics Circle finalist, reflects on those experiences.
A writer of both fiction and poetry, he earned a BA and MA from California State University, Fresno, and an MFA from the University of Washington, where he was the 1995-1996 Klepser Fellow. Currently, he teaches high school English in California.