Picking Weeds

By Eric Tinsay Valles

Your fingers once scratched the soil
For clovers, dandelions, briar
As your mamá picked up shards of glass
On the path of her starving toddler.

The same stubby fingers bled
Clasping to a prickly border fence
In that wind-swept, dreamy point cleaving
Sonoran desert1 from Temecula vineyards.2

They later folded dog-ears
On pages of flora with unreadable names,
A jigsaw of body parts starting like engines,
Tumbling to your rebirth in Boston.

Cupped firmly, they broke the water
Of the Patapsco River3 and nimbly
Disentangled brains from briar
In an illuminated operating theater.

Your farm-hand fingers,
No more delicate than thousands in a chain,
Turned the knob and defiantly shut out wailing;
A scalpel replaced your trowel.

Did those fingers turn traitor,
With a wave dismissed your race,
Or did they heed a higher impulse
To cure the misery of all people?

In sanitized gloves, they cut clean,
Lob seed-like tumors to an icy tray;
Curled-up, healthy tissues hum
Like a tractor on the first planting day.

They recall rubbing against the prune skin
Of fellow aliens rounded up,
A malignant abscess to be excised,
Tucked away like straw for kindling fire.

Between your thumb and index finger
Rest x-ray images instead of a bedsheet.
Cancer spreads with cyclone rage, you say,
When let to fester like peat.

Thousands of fingers risk being maimed
Scaling a prickly fence to ease distemper.
Which belong to physician souls on the make
Or are in bliss counting clover?

1A desert at the US-Mexican border

2Vineyards in southern California

3 A river close to the Johns Hopkins Brain Tumor Stem Cell Laboratory where former illegal migrant worker Dr. Alfredo Quinones practices as a surgeon