Turning Trays

Each vineyard is a world of crosses.
They sink in fog each winter, in summer
dangle green redemption. Late August,
grapes sugar even as you cut. You must cut
and lay and spread and turn each tray
again and again. Flesh shrivels,
browns in the sun. Bronzed nuggets
fall from the stem, and you,
as far from the beginning as the end,
cannot walk away.
You cannot escape turning trays.
One row ends; another begins.
You must finish this row
and the next
and the next.

I once feared I’d end up stuck mid-row,
a line of brown paper trays behind me,
neat bunches of grapes splayed across
each tray. Raisin grapes trailed me,
pearls the size of my fingertips.
Here is where I tackled imagery:
taut flesh between my teeth,
sweet liquid down my throat.
Here is where I struggled for the end
of each line, no dirt roads or dry canals
to turn me back. I learned to savor
strands of words, weigh their ripe perfection.
I learned to measure a scrub jay’s call,
a dragonfly’s rainbow flight.
I learned there is no stepping away,
no leaving behind what remains:
one more row to turn,
unfinished lines to tend.

:: Diana Garcia, When Living Was a Labor Camp (2000)

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