Marilynn Montaño is embedded in her migrant father’s rough hands

Orange County poet and activist Marilynn Montaño’s poem His Machucada Hands is a “testament to the ways that being undocumented has taken a physical toll on her father’s body. The title, she said, came from noticing his hands on the steering wheel every morning as he drove her to middle and high school,” according to the PBS News Hour.

“It’s really hard for people like my dad, because they work under the table and there’s not a lot of protections for those people. … I always noticed his hands. They’re so overworked,” she said. “They’re black because of paint from yesterday, or sometimes they’re swollen. It’s a symbol of what this country does to people who are undocumented.”

His Machucada Hands

6 a.m.
The grey streets that dingle in his eyes
As he drives in his white Toyota pick-up truck through the fog
The pondering cold weather in the morning like the anti-immigrant laws that drown this country
Yes, it’s possible to live in, a world without borders
So un cafecito and donuts that only seem to ease the desmadre

The sweeping men dressed in yellow, that reads “Caution”
But never really stopping to caution about their own health

Day and Night
The bones click and clack
Like the baby rattles in my little brothers hand

See to take away the pain at the end of the day
He must drink away his 40’s till he doesn’t feel 40 anymore

I don’t blame him for being an alcoholic at times
I blame the exploitation
I blame the emotional and physical borders
I blame the corruption and greed that haven’t done no deed

Too much back pain and machucada hands
He don’t believe in Western medicine but the natural remedies his mama gave him once before he crossed over

Standing for more than 2 hours on wait at Home Depot
After, hustle for more than 7 hours of underpaid work
Yes, he’s just trying to provide and survive
Not divide like the men in suits that play, ‘Poli-Migra’
What kind of living is that?

See our father
Is just trying to make enough
Yet still can’t even call it living

See his hands have been exploited enough that they aren’t recognizable to his eyes no more
They become rough
Deep with cuts like the nopales rooted out of la tierra
He has come to accepting that’s the way it must go
That’s messed up
No one deserves to be exploited
Not our father

Sometimes he just wish he can join the rallies and protests
He can’t put the fist up in the air
Cuz his hands has been in the fist for too long
Since the day he crossed la frontera

Why are we so consumed to being the chingones in the movement?
When its our parents whom we need to empower
So they must not fear and say no more to being exploited

But somehow we all seem to forget that he needs living too
The living to see his mother and homeland
The living to see his children graduate
The living to love his wife more
The living to just be

To really get that ‘American Dream’
What is the ‘American Dream’?
There are too many perspectives
Too many borders trying to divide this, ‘American Dream’

So why is our family just not the right fit?

Why must you cringe at the sight of seeing my father’s hand and skin?
Why must you put him down?
See my dad got more fuerza than the one you trained in the academy

As I sit writing away
Look at my hand
He has sacrificed so much so I don’t get his machucada hands

It is our family’s becoming
Written through the vein that circulates in his machucada hands
Passed so softly to the tips of my hands
The day he held me for the first time out of my mother’s womb

Read more at PBS.

Photo via WildWomynWriters.