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El Jornalero

He waits on the corner not hoping for a handout
trying to buy the eye of an employer 
with a glance. Potential patrones pass the man
ready to work, to paint, to haul your unwanteds,
breaking his bones beneath the weight. Of the hours required,
he will labor from dawn until his tools bleed or his rollers
cry and the pan goes dry or the brush breaks,
losing its hair. His head wonders what his wife will say
if another day dusks down and he arrives home again, blackened
only from the exhaust of those carros, leaving him in the gutter
at five in the morning. Él compra café, hot,
steaming, almost succulent, liquid rains down
his throat. Dry from pleading a buck 
for his body. His mind must forget, flocked
in white painter's garb. He remembers the code
of these esquineros. They have formed an informal
union of sorts: no under-bidding, no women-chasing,
no crossing clientes of the Dunn Paints store. Hay
un respeto, a respect to maintain. 
A gringo admiring his face and his arms,
throws some words from the window of
a truck. It totes a ladder and water jugs
for the day. How much? he asks. The jornalero
licks his lips and saunters to the side, priming
numbers through this head. A human calculator,
the day-worker draws the manner of the man
who might rob him of money or leave him lost
in Lancaster. The job will last three days.
He opens the door and prays the driver has a soul.

-- Lisa Marie Sandoval

Copyright © 1999-2007 Lisa Marie Sandoval. All rights reserved