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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

After Tomato Picking

After Tomato Picking

In fourth grade
I picked tomatoes
to make money.

The night before, we packed
our lunches with anticipation
and American cheese sandwiches.

We left at dawn with the sun
slithering across the desert,
twisting the horizon into slivers of gold.

The drive out to the farmland
was filled with yawns and coffee.
I leaned against my brother and dozed.

On our way we passed farm workers,
their painted signs blurring by.
I catch one word, strike.

My brother yells, Viva la Raza
but don't yet know what it means.
He raises his chin and smiles.

In the field the smell
of disturbed earth and sweat mingles
with the sound of giggles

from my sister’s friends.
I stand in between rows,
a bucket full of green tomatoes

too heavy to lift, my brother
carrying it to men sitting
in precious shade.

We left as soon as the thermometer
moved above 100.
The others stayed.


I worked to buy a new
outfit for my Barbie,
and dreamed of making

enough for her pink corvette.
After three days with the
pubescent hairs of the vines,

I developed a rash
and had to  ponder
my three-day career

under the lace
of my canopy bed.
I never went back. 

I think of those others
honed by a desire
to feed the hunger

that could never
be sated earning
five cents a bucket.

I couldn’t even lift that nickel.

Photo Credit: Stewart Ferebee