Kitchen Sink

Today she would change nothing,
not even the walpaper peeling
like dead bark. Nor, outside, the shadows
approaching the yard where ants
toil like women in their houses of sand.
Never mind that the sun will be setting.

When she was young she felt afraid
of hard wind and the rain that unsettled the creek.
But the earth never left her,
not once did the floods reach her feet.
The reward of a long life is faith

in what's left. Dishes stacked on a strong table.
Jars of dried beans. Scraps of cloth.
And the ten thousand things of her own thoughts,
incessant as creek water. She has been able

to lay up her treasures on earth,
as if heaven were here, worth believing.
In the water her hands reach
like roots accustomed to living,

the roots of the cat-briar that hold to the hillside
and can never be torn free of this earth completely.

:: Kathryn Stripling Byer, The Girl in the Midst of the Harvest


I'm Standing in Line

I'm standing in line
for unemployment compensation
a long line that ropes around the room
waiting my turn
and hating it
because the clerk
who stands at the window hour after hour
or works at a desk squeezed between desks
in a mustard-colored room
with low ceilings and fluorescent lights
and no windows
the clerk makes it feel like a handout.

I go home and do laundry
and pick tomatoes for a salad
and when the children come home from school
late as usual and with long explanations
I sit and listen
and have a cup of tea while they have milk
and we talk about what they did today
and watch the cardinal
the one with the short flat crest
eat the stale bread in the driveway.

And next day I clean the fridge
and mop the kitchen floor
and when I get tired then or later
or fed up with housework
I sit by the window with a cup of tea
and watch the trees beginning to change
and the light with them
and tell myself that what you do
is not as important as how you live.
I could be that clerk
working in a mustard-colored box
making people feel like dirt.

:: Rina Ferrarelli, in If I Had a Hammer: Women's Work in Poetry, Fiction, and Photographs


"U.S. Unemployed Jumps to 12 Million"

Colocamos em caixas

     Convertidos en cajas
          We have become boxes

empilhadas uma a outra
     una encima de otra
          stacked on top of each other

esperando serem abertas.
     esperando que nos abran.
          waiting to be opened.

Nos preguntamos se o Free
     Preguntamos si el Free
          We ask if the Free

Grand slam inclui
     Grand Slam incluye
          Grand Slam includes

suco. Despertamos durante a noite
     jugo. Despertamos en la noche
          juice. We awake in the night

adicionando e subtraindo
     sumando y restando
          adding and subtracting

os cabelos nas nossas cabeças.
     los pelos de nuestras cabezas.
          the hairs on our heads.

Somos cardacos
     Somos cordones
          We are shoelaces

amarrado duas vezes,
     atados dos veces,
          double knotted,

esperando não quebrar.
     esperando que no nos rompamos.
          hoping not to break.

:: Abigail Templeton, in Rattle #33, Summer 2010


Tobacco Men

Late fall finishes the season for marketing:
Auctioneers babble to growers and buyers.
Pickups convoy on half-flat tires, tobacco
Piled in burlap sheets, like heaped-up bedding
When sharecropper families move on in November,
No one remembers the casualties
Of July's fighting against tim ein the sun.
Boys bent double for sand lugs, bowed
Like worshippers before the fertilized stalks.
The rubber-plant leaves glared savagely as idols.

It is I, who fled such fields, who must
Reckon up losses: Walter fallen out from heat,
Bud Powell nimble along rows as a scatback
But too light by September, L. G. who hoisted up a tractor
To prove he was better, while mud his his feet--
I've lost them in a shimmer that makes the rows move crooked.

Wainwright welded the wagons, weighed three
Hundred pounds, and is dead. Rabbit was mechanic
When not drunk, and Arthur best ever at curing.
Good old boys together--maybe all three still there,
Drinking in a barn, their moonshine clearer than air
Under fall sky impenetrable as a stone named for azure.

I search for your faces in relation
To a tobacco stalk I can see,
One fountain of up-rounding leaf.
It looms, expanding, like an oak.
Your faces form fruit where branches are forking.
Like the slow-motion explosion of a thunderhead,
It is sucking the horizon to a bruise.

A cloud's high forehead wears ice.

:: James Applewhite, Following Gravity