•               Gaithersburg, Maryland
  •  
  •  At Scot Gas, Darnestown Road,
  • the high school boys pumping gas
  • would snicker at the rednecks.
  • Every Saturday night there was Earl,
  • puckering his liquor-smashed face
  • to announce that he was driving
  • across the bridge, a bridge spanning
  • only the whiskey river
  • that bubbled in his stomach.
  • Earl’s car, one side crumpled like his nose,
  • would circle slowly around the pumps,
  • turn signal winking relentlessly.
  •  
  • Another pickup truck morning,
  • and rednecks. Loitering
  • in our red uniforms, we watched
  • as a pickup rumbled through.
  • We expected: Fill it with no-lead, boy,
  • and gimme a cash ticket.
  • We expected the farmer with sideburns
  • and a pompadour.
  • We, with new diplomas framed
  • at home, never expected the woman.
  • Her face was a purple rubber mask
  • melting off her head, scars rippling down
  • where the fire seared her freak face,
  • leaving her a carnival where high school boys
  • paid a quarter to look, and look away.
  •  
  • No one took the pump. The farmer saw us standing
  • in our red uniforms, a regiment of illiterate conscripts.
  • Still watching us, he leaned across the seat of the truck
  • and kissed her. He kissed her
  • all over her happy ruined face, kissed her
  • as I pumped the gas and scraped the windshield
  • and measured the oil, he kept kissing her.

Martín Espada is a poet, editor, essayist and translator. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he worked for a number of years as a tenant lawyer in Boston’s Latino community. He has published more than 15 books. His latest collection of poems is The Trouble Ball. The Republic of Poetry (2007) received the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. “Rednecks” is taken from Imagine the Angels of Bread (1996), which won an American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His collection of essays, Zapata’s Disciple (1998), was among the books recently banned by the Tucson, Arizona, school system. Espada is currently a professor in the department of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Author photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths.

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Comments

nan shartel May 10, 2012 @ 3:08 p.m.

i'm completely blown away by this and i don't understand a word of it

that's poetry eh!!!

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