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Syndic Literary Journal

Art & Poetry by Bob Thompson

Art & Poetry by Bob Thompson





Hey, mister

I need a beer,
cut the chalk taste in my mouth, erase the ache.
Camacho’s sandpaper coffee scrapes my temples.
I need a drink to mend my soul.

Why did I get on the bus?
Bouncing, stale bodies and sweat,
washed by the already warm 5:00 am Valley air, dusty sulfur.
Come on buddy, pick peaches today, 27 cents a lug, good price.
Better than the dumpsters and pop bottles.

Red flags, bull horns and cop cars meant trouble.
I slide lower, huelga, huelga, rock exploded windshield,
tall tan shirts chasing pickets, billys swinging.
The bus roars through the gate, deep into the orchard,
leaving the ruckus behind.

Vamonos, trae sus escaleras, andale.
Ladder dragging down the row, picking bag hanging.
The sun’s treacherous heat comes early, 108 today.
I thirst for white port, shade of east Bakersfield.
Estos arboles aqui, boracho, pendejo!

The first bag fills fast – a good tree, thick with big peaches.
Soon, the ladder is falling harder, the fruit thin and small.
The sun roaring overhead, a baloney sandwich
lunch that costs 6 lugs, cuts into my will.

At the fence, a young woman, sweet brown innocence, a flag,
“Heh mister, won’t you help us, join the strike.”
Soft darkness of her eyes urge flight. Mama’s eyes.
Those eyes.

My vision is cut short by Chato, Camacho’s fat kid.
Get to work, back by the bus.
“Heh, brother don’t work for Camacho. He treats you like dirt.
You don’t want to be a scab, help us get a better life.”

Those eyes.
I return to the bus.

Sleep rides the bus back to town.
$12.42 for a body of pain.
Come back, first picking, you will make more tomorrow.
I try to say no, but only my mind responds.
To those eyes.

– Bob Thompson

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Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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