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We’re caffeinated by rain inside concrete underpasses, rolling along treetops, Chinese elms,palm trees, California peppers. We pushed a lawn mower for white people, we got down on our hands and knees in their San Marino driveways. We told our youth to grab hard a piece of paper swirling like like tickets in a bonfire, firecrackers at Chinese New Year, toilet paper in a bowl. We coiled green hoses. We oiled mean little engines that buzzed like an evil desire that could spit a steel slice or sharp stone to take your eye out. We gripped rusty clippers, clipped leafy hedges, ground sharper edges. We hauled their sacks of leftover leisure that rotted at the curbside. We slapped our hands with gloves, slammed white doors of Econoline vans, showed up at sunrise in the damp perfume of the downtown flower market. With all the Japanese gardeners gone, we’re Mexican now. The ones given five minutes a week or fifteen minutes a month. They wrote us a check, we wiped our hands on our pants or they did not shake them. Fertilizer under our fingernails grown large, yellow and cracked as moons. Instead of us, they saw azaleas, piracanthus, oleanders, juniper shrubs, marigolds. They didn’t want to see us, they like nature in rows and flowering things, not another kind of face. Notions rattled in us like spare bolts in a coffee can. Our days off rode us hard, like a desert storm on mountains far away. Try to make our children see more than this man with green stains, cracked skin, red eyes. More than the back bent over stacked tools and coiled hoses. Coffee breath. On dry boulevards fading into smog, kids just like ours smash our windows and loot our tools. Our kids today want to grow up to get lucky. Okay, we tell them, have it your way, and we light our children like candles.

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