In History, Captions Often Do Not Match the Picture

2

~ Cigar Factory in Manila, 1899


Everything, as you can see, is done
by hand: the plowing and sowing,
the harrowing and weeding.

In the valleys of the north
and south, they pick the leaves;
they dry in sun, by air

or fire or flue. How many palillos,
how many manojos travel by wagon
and are spread on factory tables,

the leaves as brown
as the hands that sort and roll
them? The smell---the smell

that clings for days and days
to their blouses and sayas,
that they inhale more

constantly than salt-winds from
the coast. When you close your eyes,
can you hear them cough, see dark half-

moons under each fingernail, feel
the leathery pelts they pull into tight
rolls that others will ember and burn?

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