The Brittle Tree

I have to spit one out
Before this economic system
Chews more people
Swallows them enteritos

Se traga al pobre obrero ((It swallows the poor proletarian.))

There goes my neighbor
Citrus Farmworker of 30 years
Seeped in pesticides
Company too cheap to follow EPA standards
Cancer consuming him daily
Down the gullet of Profit

Sin  ((Without)) pension
Sin healthcare

Eaten alive for decades
With promises of
That American Dream
Fused to his bones and muscles
That have known merciless heat
Constant sweat, mingled with tears

Now, he’s just the dried husk of an orange
Left out too long in desert sun

He is the orchard
The brittle tree
Ready to be burnt

Maria J. Estrada is an English college professor of Composition, Literature, and her favorite, Creative Writing. She also runs her union chapter. Maria grew up in the desert outside of Yuma, Arizona in the real Barrio de Los Locos, a barrio comprised of new Mexican immigrants and first-generation Chicanos. Drawing from this setting and experiences, she writes like a loca every minute she can—all while balancing her work, union, and family obligations. Maria lives with her husband, two children, and two cats on Chicago’s south side. Read more about her writing at Read other articles by Maria J., or visit Maria J.'s website.