Late last year, Federal agents raided six Swift & Co. meat processing plants in six states in search of illegal immigrants working there. 1,282 people were arrested in Operation Wagon Train.

This month's featured poet, Jacob Saenz, not only follows Pound's advice to "make it new," but converts this event into "news that stays news" in his poem, "Sweeping the States," from our November issue:
they move in swift on the Swift

Plants in six states & sift

through the faces to separate

the dark from the light

like meat & seat them in

the back of vans packed tight

like the product they pack

& who's to pick up the slack

the black & white can't cut it

so the beef stacks sell single

to feed the pack the flock

who block passages & clog

the cogs of the machine the process

not so swift to give & grant a wish

of a place a stake in the land

handling the steaks for the rest

to take in to sate the mouths

of  the stock who have stock

in the business of  beef & beef

with the brown who ground them
It's a strange irony that, as if proving that news really does stay news, one of the founding guarantors of this magazine in 1911 was none other than Charles H. Swift.
Kevin Young, also featured this month, invokes as well the harsh landscape in which so many work hard to earn a stake. Excerpted from a longer work, The Book of Hours, his lines may sound more lyrical, but they are equally tough, just as real. Here's a sample:
Black like an eye

bruised night brightens

by morning, yellow

then grey —

a memory.

What the light was like.

All day the heat a heavy,

colored coat. 

I want to lie

down like the lamb —

down & down

till gone —

shorn of its wool.

The cool

of setting & rising

in this valley,

the canyon between us

shoulders our echoes.

Moan, & make way.

Originally Published: November 7th, 2007

Don Share became the editor of Poetry in 2013. His books of poetry are Wishbone (2012), Squandermania (2007), and Union (2013, 2002). He is the co-editor of The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of Poetry Magazine (2012), and editor of Bunting's Persia (2012) and a critical edition of Basil Bunting's poems (2016). He...

  1. November 8, 2007

    Thanks for this post. I'd also like to point folks to the book SOME DECLARATIONS Y OTROS POEMS, by Javier O. Huerta. I'll be doing a Shout Out on this book soon, but the connection between these two poets' politics is relevant.

  2. November 8, 2007
     Don Share

    I'll be looking forward to that Shout Out, Rigoberto. In Huerta's book there's a poem, "Toward a Portrait of the Undocumented," with these lines, already much-quoted:
    The economy is a puppeteer
    manipulating my feet.
    (Who's in control when you dance?)
    Pregnant with illegals, the Camaro
    labors up the road; soon I will be born.
    I am the heat
    captured by infrared eyes.