Saturday, July 3, 2010


On “Day Laborer Love”

I think a lot about work. I think about all the many different forms of labor and how that labor is compensated. I think about the difference between cost and value, and how some of the most valuable things are the cheapest--food and clothing, for instance--and the least valuable things the most expensive--sports cars, furs, diamond rings--and how in the world it got that way. I think about how we compensate the people who produce these things, and how some of the best paid workers produce the least useful stuff and the worst paid workers produce the stuff we all need. I think about the relationship between time spent and money earned, and how some people spend very little time making lots of money while others spend lots of time making very little. I think about how we all ultimately work for the same reason, which is to be with the ones we love--to share a home with them, a meal together, a beer after work, a bed--but we don’t all get to enjoy these things equally because a bargain for some means long hours with low pay for others. And I think about how the world might be improved if we balanced these things out, how if everyone made a descent amount of money for a descent amount of work, then we’d all have a descent amount of free time to be with the ones we love. Maybe I’m naive, but I think about these things, and I wonder if other people think about them, too. I think they’re important, which is why I chose Arnoldo Garcia’s story for Issue No. 2.

All writing is political, fiction included. The worst kind preaches, condescending to instruct. The best kind discusses, working to reveal. In fiction, the rule is the same: show, not tell. “Day Laborer Love” does a great job of this. It’s a highly political story that takes place in bed. All and more of the socioeconomic issues mentioned above are at play here, shining an entire way of life through the keyhole of the bedroom door. The story contains some strong language, to be sure, which will elicit objections to Garcia’s and, by editorial extension, my verbal depiction of the female body. That said, the narrator (assumed to be male) expresses an undeniable love and tenderness for his partner in the last two lines. All in all, I believe “Day Laborer Love” is really a love story--maybe the most real kind. It’s neither fairy tale nor tragedy nor melodrama. Love is work, and that is life.

Arnoldo Garcia is a cultural worker and poet born in the mouth of the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande. He has worked as a migrant farmworker, janitor, courier, substitute teacher and, since 6th grade, as human rights organizer. He has published poetry, essays and short stories intermittently over the years. His last book, "XicKorea: rants, words & poems together" with Beth Ching and Miriam Ching Louie, was published in 2003. He works for the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights in Oakland where he is the editor of their newsmagazine and heads up NNIRR's Immigrant Justice & Rights Program. He writes intensively on immigration policy, human rights and linking interior and border communities to dream together the changes the want and how to get them. He is currently finishing up a manuscript of poems and essays titled "La revolucion emplumada" that will come out before 2012.


  1. I'm trying to sort through the layers of this story... What I feel is the absolute exhaustion of life between labour, the survival mode of my parents as migrants and so many family members and friends, refugees I struggled with and the folks I struggle with now in Mexico. It speaks to me of our unglamourous lives where we steal moments to write our romances in these little gestures at times. These are the love stories of those of us who can't take our girl out to the fancy restaurant or plan a surprise weekend for our guy - we live our loves through our shared exhaustion, our shared histories, our shared alienation sometimes, and hopefully our shared struggles... our ways of loving are a part of our identity.. The thing is that the love and tenderness that come through to me in this short story are so regular that they are powerful... despite the rather crude words used to describe the sex and the woman's body, what I feel most is the tenderness.. and an almost edgy desperation to connect in the midst of survival mode... What a tribute to someone to say that one worked just to see them - what a tribute given the absolute weight of what work is in the prevailing economic system and at what personal cost one works... Thanks Arnoldo.. still reflecting on this one..

  2. Terrific short short, brilliantly stitching together desire and endurance, waiting and hope, through days and nights of boring or difficult labor, working lives ground through the machine. More and more kids face dead-end jobs, lack of educational options, and are offered the choice of the military or some other bald form of exploitation. As benefits, financial aid, protections and education are slashed, this kind of love story will be a prevalent one in our time. Bitterly and brilliantly insightful in that way.

    "Crude" language in this story connotes both the loss of a basic humanity faced by people who have to work 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet (their weariness is stated outright, their marginalization clearly implied) at the same time as (in this story anyway) it implies their resistance, their tenderness, a basic capacity for feeling that these characters have not allowed to be destroyed. The insight here is wonderful, intimate, nearly secret.

    I hope to find these matchbooks, to be able to pass this story on.