Voices From These Times: ‘Farmer’

Manny Sosa

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In These Times has partnered with the Neighborhood Writing Alliance (NWA) to amplify the stories and struggles of ordinary people, including workers in the United States. This piece, part of an ongoing biweekly series, originally appeared in the Journal of Ordinary Thought , published by NWA. Find more stories and voices at the NWA’s blog.


Opium is bad for people
but really good for farmer.
Good for farmer. Bad for people.
Cultivating opium is the
only way to feed my wife and kids.
A jungle clearing dotted with bright,
bright pink poppies.
A green bulb oozes sticky latex
that is processed into the potent
heroin wreaking havoc in Chicago
and much of America.

I grow it along steep mountainsides
so they don’t get sprayed by the

A kilogram.
A kilogram of heroin goes
for 90 thousand dollars. That’s big!
I get 4 grand for all my effort.

I think of it as job security
for America the Beautiful.
The Emergency Rooms across
that country
have to be reeling with overdoses
from my cultivated opium.
I’m not provided an alternative
way to make a living.

When I’m done here, I go home and
get an ice-cold beer with some
Ironically this happens in a
town called El Congresso, Colombia.


Coffee bean is good. Primo.
I’m a coffee bean farmer.
I grow the best beans in the world,
Promised top dollar for my
Crops — 88 cents a pound.

My family survives only on beans and

Bananas for breakfast, beans for lunch,
and bananas and beans for dinner.

All I’m asking for is a little help here.

Where on earth is the fucking justice?
I get one cent for each cup
of Starbucks.

Pinche Starbucks
The paleteros in the states get
50 cents for each ice cream sold.
Better than me. They eat rice.

I can’t even get rice for my family.
How could this happen?
What am I going to do now?
The government took my youngest
Coz I couldn’t afford a proper burial
for my wife.

If I try really hard, I can pretend
my spit tastes like cranberries.

Ironically this happens in a
town called El Congreso, Colombia.

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