They wrap themselves in their wings at night
roosting in the trees till dawn.
They whistle with the owls, their eyes alive all night
like luminous apples.
High above the California orchards, near the moon's blade
they ride the wild galloping winds
from Mexico every morning.
So many rumors and no one knew
where they went at night.
My civics teacher shrugged his shoulders like a flag.
Ranchers wouldn't answer.
The editor of the local Times,
who sang mariachi songs with a voice soft as cilantro,
even he didn't know.
Our doctor said he'd never seen a sick bracero,
gunned the only Jag in town and left the light behind,
blinking dumbly in the sun.
I darted through the tops of cottonwoods
on a road shouldered by stone arches over the dry creek bed.
From the highway that led to evening church,
I saw a sand road of tents
cross under like the Israelites.
I looked down and saw the invisible people of the arroyo seco
their wings pinned to ropes between the trees.
I saw a boy my own age, brown, bare,
his face grimaced like a claw.
When the fog unrolls its black cold blanket over the valley,
they climb down their orchard ladders
unfasten folded canvas skirts
and let the last apples fall like coughs,
keep on descending
from ranches to the arroyo
into currents of darkness.