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Lament for the Nopales
by David Dominguez
The equipment pushed through before dawn.
We watched from across the street.
We watched how the old rusted
chainlink was wrenched free,
went down, and was rolled into spools.
We watched how the bulldozer
crept up the curb and lowered its teeth
into the tired ground until
the roots sighed for a moment
and then popped and snapped
like the dried-out bones of the dead.
We watched how the orchard
fell flat like a victory without hope
and then rose in the dust that billowed
under the white street lamp still
glowing brightly at this hour.
We watched the flatbed pick-ups roll in
and the port-a-potties that were
unloaded and put where the shade would be.
We watched the dumpsters
fill-up quick, and we watched the crane,
its black boom tall against the sunrise,
stand silent beside the trailer trucks
and the gray steal beams that came in on trains.
We saw the concrete mixers pour cement
across the dried up dirt of Fresno,
and we watched the heavy slab take shape
where the pencas orchard once was
These were the days we hungered for more than memory:
these were the days we longed for the orchard
the last spot of industrial Fresno
where the dust was the dust of earth which would
settle over our brow, mix with sweat,
and leave on our handkerchiefs swipes the color of clay.
Those days, when after work we sat on milk cans
in a circle of quiet shade and good conversation
at the outer edge of the orchard to peel
the skin and thorns with a quick pocket-knife blade
until all that was left was the bright green meat of the nopales.
© 2000 El Andar Magazine