America the Beautiful, Revisited

 

by Laura Valencia, 2009 SAF alumni

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

Brown dirt, red juice. Permanent, blood-like splotches stain my hands, radiant against the green, fruited plains – a tell-tale sign that my summer days are spent in the fields. Though each piece of fruit means a strawberry pie, a strawberry smoothie, a strawberry short cake to someone else, to me each means a penny towards next year’s tuition, this week’s food, my sister’s wedding dress. As I pick each piece of fruit, the steady rhythm of agricultural work lulls me into a false sense of relaxation. I mentally plan out my evening and consider sneaking a Cheeto from my pocket. Lean back on my heels, pulling my long sleeves down over my wrists. My mother looks at me, her brow covered in sweat, asking from beneath her face mask, “Mari, estas bien?” I nod. She leans over again, knees in the dirt. Every day, she reminds us that she brought us here for a better life. Every moment she spends in the fields, she imagines better-fed versions of her children sitting firmly at a school desk, attentively scribbling notes with the enthusiasm of top-class students. You can be president, she says, you can be a doctor. You can be a lawyer. Down the row, a man lays on his back, eyes covered. His daughter leans against his knees, his son picking next to him. I turn back to my work, and stand up, bucket in hand (how many today?), to get my timecard punched. I wipe my stained hands on my pants.

Read Laura’s entire essay here.

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