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Valentina Gnup, 3/1/2010

Current Occupation: Adjunct instructor of English at Clark College, administrative assistant for Nonverbal Solutions
Former Occupation: teacher, waitress
Contact Information: Valentina Gnup has her MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. She grew up in California then lived in North Carolina for six years. She moved to Portland in 2008. In 2005 her chapbook Sparrow Octaves won the NC Writers’ Network Mary Belle Campbell Award. Her poems have appeared in Hiram Poetry Review, Nimrod, Blue Collar Review, Crab Orchard Review and others. She just won the Joy Harjo Poetry Award from Cutthroat Journal. Her two daughters are in college, and she is married to the poet John Blackard. They have a Boston terrier named Stella.

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At the Cherimoya Packaging Plant

At the cherimoya packaging plant
the women inspect the green fruit for pests.

They spray each piece with machines so loud,
no one can hear anyone else speak.

They have learned to read each other’s lips,
but most of what they say requires no answer.

On their break, the women linger in the parking lot
listening to the Spanish radio station.

When the weather is mild, they lie on the hoods
of their cars with sandwiches balanced on their chests.

You might say this makes them look
like sea otters cracking abalone, and you

would be right and you would be wrong.
Mostly they look like women tired of washing fruit.

The women are permitted to take bruised
or discarded cherimoyas home to their families.

Some take the damaged fruit just for themselves.
They slice the soft meat into bite size wedges

and spit the seeds onto plates. At bedtime,
they rub lotion into their chapped hands

and whisper prayers to the Virgin Mary.
When they sleep, the women dream of silence.

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