Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fruits of the Earth

Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Charles Mariano

having a hard time
with this latest
bump in the road
and too many scabs
to count

plus, got my foot
stuck on yesterdays
and flatout refuse
to give it more gas

is it me?

there’s something sticky
on the kitchen floor
the mold in the sink
just moved
and my imaginary cleaning lady
up an quit
this morning

my shirt
has coffee stains
and some unnamed sauce
from last tuesday,

and the music
over and over
in my head
won’t go past 1970,
drives me to drink

worst of all, dear life,

the parking meter
expired twenty years ago,

and i’m outta quarters


Thanks to Katy and Charles for today's postings! Let's celebrate Earth Week (and the generosity of Mother Earth) with a give-away—send me a Seed of the Week poem about Fruits of the Earth and I'll send you a copy of Emily and the High Cost of Living by Kathy Kieth from Tiger's Eye Press—or any rattlechap of your choosing from Rattlesnake Press—free. Send 'em to kathykieth@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. There's a deadline on this SOW though: postmarked or e-mailed by midnight, Sunday, April 25.


—charles mariano

we lived in the projects
and Daddy lived away
in a rundown rental
on Cone avenue
in Merced

but despite our poorness
Daddy insisted
on farming

he worked graveyard
at Castle AFB
then hit the fields in the morning
pruning, weeding, picking
for someone else,
until finally
scraping enough,

to lease a small piece
of land
mostly tomatoes,
but bellpeppers, squash, chilis
and more

he’d drag us out there
to plow, cultivate, weed,
then pick
until our blisters
had blisters

every cent
went to this failed garden
until finally
Daddy’s green thumb
came through

we weren’t
any great success
but Daddy,
so humble and proud
just beamed,

when the fruits
of his backbreaking labor
came through
in lush greens
and reds
bountiful and plenty

after long, suffering years
of nothing
when everyone
all of them
made fun of him,

this big, beautiful garden
under a bright
radiant sun,
a masterpiece,

from his heart


—charles mariano

every night
after a long day
of working the fields
daddy came to us
without fail

his skin
caked hard from the sun
eyes burnt
to a squint

his old pick-up
a pathwork
of blue, orange, and rust,
barely driveable

the door creaked

as he stepped down
stomped the pavement
to knock the dust,
then used a wet rag
to wipe a clean spot
on his face

stooped shoulders
dusty felt hat
his body
exhausted, beaten

by the time
he reached the screen door
he’d be smiling
scooping us up
kissing and squeezing
one by one
then leave

every day
through the window
waited for that truck
ached for him


—charles mariano, sacramento

as summer
raged into June
Daddy rousted us
one by one
before light
to beat the fierce heat

we loaded up the flatbed
with more bundles
of long wooden sticks
sharp on one end
and tied them together
with sturdy twine

the sun
peeked over the hood
of the battered dodge,

“hurry up boys, a hundred-six today!”
yelled Daddy from the shed

at the field
a leased 18-acre spread
on Gerard avenue in Merced,
we dropped the bundles next to the
long furrowed rows
of young tomato plants

we used a large metal pipe
closed on one end, hollow inside
with handles,
for pounding sticks

Jimmy Boy
placed a long line of sticks
into the ground,
next to the plants,

then Junie and i
would come up behind
and pound them in

i’d reach up and over
each stick
let the metal pounder
slide to the end
raise up, then down
gently at first, until secure
then a few hard thrusts
and on to the next

after days of pounding
hands blistered to hard callous
arms and shoulders

i stopped,
looked back at the
finished rows
wiped the sweat
from my sunburned face
then gazed ahead
at the hundred miles
yet to go

after the sticks pounded deep
we’d string each row
with twine
under every plant
from large spools
both sides

in a few weeks
a dazzling red harvest,
gleaming bright
bursting, spreading
held up
and out,
with sticks and twine
for easy picking

i kneeled into the first row
dragged my lug up close
then gently pulled,

the first jewel


Today's LittleNip:

You can throw yourself flat on the ground, stretched out upon Mother Earth, with the certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you... As surely as she will engulf you tomorrow, so surely will she bring you forth anew.

—Erwin Schrödinger



Photo by Katy Brown