Thony Aiuppy : Poetry : September 2020

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Work, labor, and economy have been areas of focus in my art practice over the last several years. Before I began my journey as a visual artist and educator, I worked blue collar jobs in the printing and manufacturing industries. Manual labor, the daily grind, hustling, however you describe work and employment, says a lot about a person, their culture, and where they “fit” within the social constructs of their community and society. These themes relate not only to my own story, but to the larger narrative of how the Deep South was built from Reconstruction through World War II and how people are perceived and valued today.

Three Poems

First Fruits

Day after day, the white pick-up truck stops at the same corner
The same bodies hop in the back
They lean against the cab as they ride in the bed
Loose tools and rope sliding with every turn

When the truck stops, they know it’s time to get to work. 
This year they’ll yield carrots and turnips
Collard and mustard stalks

No clock to punch
They arrive at day break and leave when the sun last blinks
Picking food their mouths will never taste
Inhaling aromas their lungs will never embrace

Their fingers will break and blister, bleed and sweat
Hoisting the first fruits of their labor
Reach and pull

Bushels of harvest, a handheld cornucopia
Imitating Dutch vanity paintings
Images of succulent green
Orange and violet roots bursting with eternal life

Row by row they work the field
Spilt blood christens what will later touch our lips as we set to gather in our homes
Sweat drops from their noses, baptizing their sacrifice

Open palms will receive cash in hand
A day’s wages, but not enough to sustain
No bank account 
Or place to call home

When the day’s done, those same bodies will jump back into the bed of the truck
Dropping them off at the same corner
One will assist the other out
Hand kerchief covered in debris

She’ll shake it off
They’ll embrace
Each going their own way

Hoping and praying 
They’ll petition for the other to make it until morning
Marked safe from raids and looming deportation
Into the shadows, they creep and hide to survive another day

Sojourner

Leave the edges of your fields for the sojourner
The perimeter, it is for them
Pluck and eat

Miles, he has traveled
Yet, many more footsteps to go 
Dust licks his boots

The sun beats down, never relenting
This celestial body holds back grace 
No shade or mercy

He crosses himself before he sets out early each morning
Through ridges and ravines, he plods his course
Across rough, rugged terrain

Resolve carries the sojourner
Dreams (or Premonitions) about better days
Determination ferries him over every pass

Working here, laboring there, a bite to eat, a bed to rest
Will it ever come?
Rest

Land of the free – that’s what they said
Home of the brave – that’s what they sang
But is there rest for the weary?

Along the horizon lies the contour of a great city 
Purple and amber mix
Creating lavender structures in the distance

Muscles constrict as his strides lengthen
Awaken, tired bones 
Let hope arise

An ecstatic mirage belies his view
Leviathans reveal their nature when he approaches (at his approach)
Scales of rot and decay

The sojourner, the migrant, the deposed
All opportunity has dried up 
Freedom parched and cracked

Hostility meets him at the border
Walls, fences, watch towers 
Barriers prevent his entry (passage)

A nation insecure
Formerly immigrants and dissenters and sojourners
Ensuring safety for itself
Failing, they’ve destroyed the edges of their fields
Denying the pursuit of the ever-perishing, enigmatic dream
Pluck and eat (withered and limp)

Still More Pressure

No matter what tactics they use
Or the way they treat your body
Still more pressure

The lies they use and the stories they spew
Skewing the truth of the matter
Still more pressure

You can’t effect change without pressure
Press hard

The change you make is dependent on 
The amount of torque you’re willing to apply

In the end they will break
But still more pressure

Press, and not just down

Press with all you got

And when you can’t press anymore
Turn it up 
Still more pressure