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Rail Road Worker.

Rail Road Worker

   My grandfather Maurilio laid railroad tracks
   his strong brown body working
   side by side with strong black bodies
   mejicanos. Later worked in San Antonio in
   the yards.
   Tejano and proud he'd smoke his hand
   rolled Bugler's
   Bueli would unsew the tobacco tiny sacks
   stitched in red,
   and sew them again into bedspreads of fine
   cotton manta
   muslin sharp at first and smooth after
   repeated
   washings in the huge black bottomed tub.
   Colchas to cover her children from the cool
   night air
   as they slept out on the porch
   In San Antonio, the two children died. And
   two survived.
   at five, my Mami would come home from
   school
   and find her sister Eloisa playing with their
   cousins
   Abelardo and Modesto--Manuel, not yet
   born.
   The railroad ruled
   they ate and slept and partied according to
   the yard's schedule
   the thinking too was circumscribed by rails
   and whistles blowing loud as hopes and
   dreams
   of moving on
   A young girl, walking alone.
   The men stared, and sometimes whistled.
   The women stared back, sometimes giggled.
   But, the little girl afraid of being afraid
   would run home,
   her strong brown legs under cotton dresses
   her trenzas flying in the wind.

   The railroad came from the north.
   Corpus to San Antonio to Laredo and they
   went with it. Los mejicanos built the
   railroad.

   Tex-Mex. Union Pacific. Southern Pacific.
   Bearing cargo of fruit and vegetables from
   the south.
   Buelito wore his blue striped cap and union
   overalls
   each morning took his blue--or was it black--enameled
   lunch box,
   portavianda he called the three neatly
   stacked pots,
   and in the afternoon, took it home and set it
   up on the cupboard
   el trastero he made with his own hands.

   The railroad took his best years
   Between sixteen and forty, he worked every
   day
   Until one day over a spat with the white
   bosses who
   had always treated him well
   made him trust them with their smiles and
   their praises for his work, he left.
   Or they fired him. He was a union man.
   Or he wasn't.
   The story is never really clear.
   In the end, it doesn't matter.
   The deportation hurt so deep, he never
   recovered
   drank his life away,
   A railroad worker no more.
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Title Annotation:Poetry by Norma Cantu/Poesia de Norma Cantu
Publication:Bilingual Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:May 1, 2016
Words:369
Previous Article:Forjando el Destino.
Next Article:Words from the Editors Jesse S. Gainer and Carmen Tafolla/ Palabras de los editores Jesse S. Gainer and Carmen Tafolla.

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