Thinning Broccoli In The Rain


From my cluttered porch
I watch the storm move in. A man
with a red convertible struggles
to get the top up. Rain begins
to splatter my newspaper. I can't read
the front page stories. Sharp black letters
fatten into blurry lines. I decide to thin
the broccoli, two short rows in this
apartment shadowed dirt. In the warm rain,
soil darkens wet in my hands.


The Indians had a seed song my grandmother
used to sing. I can see her, bending
at the waist, planting. Chanting to the ebb
and swell of Spring Creek in the spring.
One time in the thirties, the hoppers were so bad
they ate the seedlings to the ground.
Three times, she replanted, but no garden grew.
The next two years were dry ones. She had to coax
a little water from the creek before the sun
was up. In the dark, she moved the thirsty earth,
bent low, making little rivers that the morning sun
licked dry. She never flew or drove red cars.
She bore red babies in the August heat, scattering
her seeds to the edges of a circle
she thought she understood, willing their survival
with blood as thick as night. She couldn't
block the sun, but she could plant
and turn the earth.


The wing span on bombers that fly
past Santa Cruz out across the ocean
to a day already done casts shadows on the sun
in ways my grandmother could never have known,
and all the gentle planting comes undone.
Comes undone, dissolving in the yellow rain,
dissolving in the tears of early widows who
plant themselves in shallow graves to stop
the warriors creeping from their wombs.

I see them, bending at the waist, black
against the flooded field, bending low
to touch the earth, touching deep
and intimate to soothe their grief. Stooped
under the sun, pulling crude hoes
through blood red earth, they plant again,

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