Five Poems

by Amanda Galvan Huynh

"See the Forest" by  Leanna Lagpacan  |  ISSUE ONE

"See the Forest" by Leanna Lagpacan | ISSUE ONE

Elegy for The Migrant Worker’s Hands

These workers, they have chosen this way of life
        and if they were not happy they would not be here.

– Jack Pandol, Delano Grower

they are born
          soft as cotton
                    small but able
          to wrap around a vine

they learn to grow
          with each season
                    and drift like pollen
          they learn to callous

along the edges
          learn to live with dirt
                    under the nails
          they learn to birth

onions from the earth
          cradle peppers away
                    from the vine
          break cucumbers free

hands moving
          from Robstown to Mathis
                    to el Valle to Floydada
          never finding a place

to rest
          they long to rest
                    beside a local girl
          to make a home

they dream of words
          they can’t read
                    for a pencil to shape
          their name

they dream of afternoons
          empty of fields
                    of onions
          of soil

The Songs of Brujería

La Luna would be the brightest on Saturday nights
            for a quince, a wedding, or some other reason
                        to celebrate—to fill a dance hall:
            tías refilling plates with barbeque

and gossip. Beer bottles humming
            around mouths. Children playing tag
                        under tables until drunk abuelos trap them
            into norteña-ing their boots along to the breath

of el acordeón. When cumbia whisked her way
            through the speakers, the women would line
                        the floor to sway in rhythm to Baila
            Esta Cumbia
. An invitation to mueve

to the music in their blood. These were the songs
            of brujería and this was where the women
                        in my family practiced. These were the nights
            my mother would take me onto the dance floor

with her long black hair cumbia-ing to its own beat.
            She would teach me how to listen to the magic
                        found in those nights—as if all I had
            to do was press my ear to my pulse—to find my way home. 


Some fray in a field
of onions, a horizon
of green stalks flanked

by brown bags & some
start to fray after one
season in the Texas

summer when the clouds
turn away & some    start
to fray after six days.

Most begin   to fray
at the bottom   cuff
of their jeans,   where

an ankle rubs against denim
in the quiet of a boot.   Some
begin to fray in the gap

between wooden crates
& sweaty palms, where blood
blisters soak into the handles

& stain shirts.    Some fray
at the collar, where the neck’s
grime rings a harness

of the work—
day’s clock.   Some fray
at the waistline where

a buckle can burn its way
into the stomach.   Some
fray the hem of an old slip,

yellowed by vaqueros
dipping in for the harvest.
My mother    frays

along the inseam
of her long legs
barely covered. Her legs

scissor through Tejano
singing crowds,
ready to clip

a ripe one: a man
missing the warmth
of his wife. A man

wanting a body
without ties. Each night
I listen to her harvest

in hot sweat
& I know some fray
better than others.

The Nurse

My mother lied to me at twelve
when I asked about her mother:
What did your mom do? 
            She was a nurse. 
And I saw her blonde hair
tucked into scrubs, working
double shifts to place rice
and beans on the table. She
was strong, intelligent, and a myth. 

Ten years gives way to specific
questions: What kind of nurse was she?
            She was never a nurse. 
            She had a profession we’re not proud of. 

My mother doesn’t make eye-contact with me
as she cannot bring her mouth to say:
The scrubs are replaced with hand-me-down
clothes. My grandmother, a single mother,
                     as an attendant at a carnival,
saving old candy apples from the trash
to bring home to her children
                     as a field worker,
bringing her children into the sun
to pick onions for nickels
                     as a clerk at a panadería,
shoveling stale pan into a bag as penance.
When there were no jobs, she gave the rest
she had; her body for a portion of the rent.

Who La Llorona Cries For

I imagine my mother saw the two blue lines

                                 as handcuffs made from rivers.

           Twenty-one and pregnant.

           The two blue lines clapping, announcing to her
                      in-laws that she had made their son
                                                                             a father.

                      Did she think of her mother?

Throughout the next nine months, did she wonder
                      if her mother sat outside on the porch
                                  eating sardines and craving the salt of the ocean?
                      Did she want to ask her how she carried ponds in her belly?
                                  What death felt like at thirty-two?

           In the delivery room, I can hear my mother
                      ¡Ay, mi Mamá —
                                 calling over
                                            and over
                                                       — mi Mamá!
                                                                                 Every contraction,
                                                                                            a protest, a reason

                      not to deliver:
                             not to become her mother,
                                                   a single mother,

                                        a mother who would leave
                                                             her sixteen-year-old daughter.

In those first seconds I came up for breath

                                                                        my mother was already calling to the dead.

Writer's Bio:

Amanda Galvan Huynh is a Chicana poet living in New York. She was a finalist for the 2015 Gloria Anzaldúa Poetry Prize, and was selected for the 2016 AWP Intro Journal Project Award. She is the receipient of scholarships from the Sewanee Conference and Sundress Academy for the Arts. Her poems have also appeared or are forthcoming in Muzzle Magazine, Tahoma Literary Review, Silk Road Review, The Boiler Journal, Huizache, and others.