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My Mother Works in Factories

by Veronica Ramirez

My mother works in factories
Seventeen, forced to drop out of school
Hoping that it will only be temporary
The grim reality of fourteen individuals
Under tinned roof over earthen floor
Crushing her ambitions
Instead she must cast aside her own desires
Like lotus petals into abysmal fire:
Twenty-one, she leaves the island she loves
Seeking the redemption she craves
Believing, praying
She’ll achieve deliverance.

My mother works in factories
While I sit in my room curled up with a book.
She tucks me in at night
And tells me never to forget,
To take advantage
To take it easy.

My mother works in factories
Endures the pain of exploding thumbs,
Racism, envy, humiliation.
Deceived by the masquerade of liberation
Hoodwinked by the idea of recreation
While I grow up in a dark world myself
On mean streets where childhood fantasies
Of bike riding, rollerblading, and summertime swimming
Resonate in my imagination as mere suburban myths.

My mother works in factories
Short, stubby fingers working to assemble
Detonators, to place banana stickers on sleek
Yellow fruits picked by the gnarled brown hands
Of those like her father, to fix watches she
Cannot afford to fantasize about,
While I complain about paper-cuts
Eyestrains from staring at textbooks,
And pulling all-nighters to meet deadlines.

My mother works in factories
Now she sits at home with the feeling of incompetence,
With the pang of despair,
As she raises the phone receiver with hands
The governments declared could never be employed again,
And calls her daughter for whom she sacrificed
And asks her to send money to pay bills
While I complain about broken laptops,
Ten page papers, and dirty laundry piles.

My mother works in factories
So I write about feminism,
About Puerto Rico,
About childhood Diaspora,
About inner-city life,
Because she said never to forget where I came from,
And I remember my mother worked in factories.