Poems Reaped by Migrant Labor

Cultivating Workers' Literary Imaginations
Written by
Justice for Farmworkers Campaign (ruralmigrantministry.org)


September will bring a new harvest moon, a new season in the fields, and on Governor's Island, another perennial gathering of local poets. The upcoming event features workers in New York's roughest jobs, all finding in the art of poetry a place to seed creativity and cultivate their imaginations. Over the past several years the Worker Writers group, founded by writer and educator Mark Nowak, has worked with housekeepers, taxi drivers, farmworkers and others who fuel the city's low-wage economy, and it has helped them find a mental respite and writerly outlet in workshops, where they exchange ideas and hone their craft. 

Their roster of writers and collaborators includes members and activists with Domestic Workers United, the Street Vendor Project, Taxi Workers Alliance, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, the Retail Action Project, Worker Justice Center of New York, and with by coordinating events like readings at PEN World Voices festival and the Governor's Island happenings, they're opening a public forum for poetry for the people--unvarnished, truthful and always inclusive, as the form was always intended to be. 

Here are a couple of selections from their portfolio, penned by farmworkers of the Hudson River Valley.

--Michelle Chen, 8/26/2016


Who Am I?

By Heriberto Gonzalez 

Justice for Farmworkers Campaign


Who am I? 
Wow I am a man 
I am a small being
within the planet Earth.
Planet governed by man. 
small but a great destroyer. 

And who are you? 
Then am I small or big?
What is man? 
Who am I? The truth, I do not know. 

I think I am an intelligent and ambitious man.
Who does not conform with what he has, 
that always wants more than what he needs. 

Who am I? 
I am creator of maps to mark territories
of which I feel the owner,
creator of borders, that divide 
man from man himself. 
Creator of wars, that without truces
seem to have no end and that without a doubt,
the most affected by which is the planet
and with it all of us. 

I ask myself:
Who am I? 
Why fight?
What are borders for? 
Why damage the planet?

This planet, that although much is the damage
that we make day by day,
gifts us the necessary to keep living. 

Who am I?
Wow I am a man
small but a great destroyer.

And who are you?


¿Quien Soy Yo?


Yo soy un ser muy pequeño 

Glebocki farms (Courtney Dudley for WNYC)

dentro del planeta tierra.
Planeta gobernado por el hombre. 

¿Entonces soy pequeño o grande?
¿Que es el hombre?
¿Quien soy Yo? La verdad, no se. 

Creo que soy un hombre inteligente y ambicioso.
Que no se conforma con lo que tiene,
que siempre quiere más de lo que necesita. 

¿Quien soy?
Soy creador de mapas para marcar territorios
de los cuales me siento dueño,
creador de fronteras, que dividen
al hombre del mismo hombre. 
Creador de guerras, que sin treguas
parecen no tener fin y que sin duda,
el más afectado es nuestro planeta
y con el todos nosotros. 

Yo me pregunto:
¿Quien soy yo?
¿Por que pelear?
¿Para que fronteras?
¿Por que dañar el planeta? 

Este planeta, que aunque es mucho el daño
que le hacemos dia con dia, 
nos regala lo necesario para seguir viviendo. 

¿Quien soy?
Wow soy un hombre
pequeño pero un gran destructor. 

¿Y tú quien eres?


Landscapes That Remind Me of My Children 

By Lourdes Galvan 

Worker Writers reading, 2015 PEN World Voices Festival (via flickr)


Utica is a pretty and quiet country 

When I was at the bus station 
my son would say to me, 'mom, I am hungry' 
and a man who was sweeping came up to me
and told me come 
and I went 
and he bought him a hamburger
and a milk carton 
and that is how a woman came up to me
and asked me 'what are you doing here?' 
and I told her what was happening to me
and she said come to my house
because it is very cold outside
and then call the person so that they come get you
she gave us dinner but I
because I was sad 
could not eat 
or sleep
and this is my story 


Pasajes Que Me Recuerdan a Mis Hijos

Utica es un país muy bonito y tranquilo

Cuando estaba en la estación del autobús 
mi hijo me decía ‘mama, tengo hambre’
y un señor que estaba bariendo se me acerco 
y me dijo ven 
y yo fui
y le compro una hamburguesa
y un bote de leche 
y así a mi vino una señora
y me pregunto ‘?que haces aquí?’
y yo platique lo que me pasaba y me dijo vente a mi 
porque afuera está muy frio
y después llamas a la persona para que venga por ti
nos dio de cenar pero yo
como me sentía triste 
no podía comer
ni tampoco dormir
y esta es mi historia 


Learn more about Worker Writers.


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