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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Step on a Crack

Didn’t anyone ever tell you, puta
nothing in life is free?
Javier whispers hard in my ear
and I know I will pay many times tonight
because Viernes is payday for the men. For me.

You must take steps, chica, proper steps
on your climb to prosperity. Fake it!
Carolina counsels, you are an Actriz now. Makeup
is serious business. Her accent
coastal- fast as gunfire.

English! Slap. Speak English! Slam.
Javier teaches me words copied
like a child: Wanna date big guy?
Sweet virgin, sweet girl. Spanish stays tucked
silent under my tongue. American men want American words.

The sistema por cuotas
keeps me on my back
twenty five times each day
but Sunday. God sees us,
girls whisper. God is busy.

Behind locked doors, in cells
we sleep, head to foot, hand in hand.
Sometimes a lullaby
Sometimes a sharp intake of breath
Wakes me from dreams.

For I dream tonight, in Spanish. Dreams
of hope, of Mama waiting my return.
Tomorrow I will fake it: an actriz,
a super-model. Practice my runway
walk. Try not to step on a crack.

© Barbara Gabriel

Twelve arrested in US raid on Latino sex-trafficking ring 

Raised along Highway 61 in Minnesota, Barbara ran away to sea, living and working around the world. She curses like a sailor and loves a well-fitting pair of boots.


  1. Barbara, a beautiful poem, powerful and sad, young girls lives destroyed. Thank you for highlighting this plight, women are sometimes slaves to men in their own homes, a wonderful voice, keep speaking. Maire x

    1. Maire, Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. I agree entirely-this topic is important as is our need to speak up.

  2. This made me cry, so profound. You are such a talented poet!

    1. Terri,

      I appreciate that so much--thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. This is what poets should do, Barbara. Uncover and expose for the world the underbelly of society that is only whispered about. Congrats on this publication. Thanks for letting me know.

    1. Thank you, Glenda. I agree--exposing that underbelly is in our job description! Appreciate your reading and commenting.

  4. Powerful poem, Barbara. It hit me slap-slap right across my face.

    1. Nancy, I so appreciate your comment- thank you for reading. I continue to be grateful for NC/GA poets and writers: their sense of community, generosity and immense talent.