The first piece of this poem appeared in Issue 29 of Bodega


As for going over
to give some humid hours
of my own, my own arms,

I was willing, of course. I was

already swearing by the dirt
and what reliably comes up

of a season. Therefore I got habitual again.
I stuck to culling the punctures, to drawing away

the fruit flies from the fruits’

I stuck my hands in it: tomato flats, cash box, lettuce bath.

In front of the heap
of onions on the table out back, I was dauntless.
Known for it.

(“You girls, I don’t know anyone…” he would say
of my sister and me, each time he happened
past the scene in the course of a day.)

Straight from the digging, the onions smack hard
of vinegar, an off-ness.

So I cleaned them.
Took a towel to their bodies till they
glowed, went scentless, and I was not overcome.

As for the absence, it too
was reliable. It hung about,
multiplied, like mint at the door.


Afternoons, I make notes on inheritance.

It was a task to remember
it wasn’t the pine trees he was offering
to die for
, and other notes.

On one such shift I raise my eyes to a regular
coming through the barn door, a woman Patrick’s age.
She has heard about him or else I have to tell her.

Either way we talk. She says, “Well, this is

the only farm stand I ever come to.”
Certain angles, certain windows here
remind her: East Germany, prewar, her father

the son of growers, mother working there
as a hand, a hundred years in every direction.
If she dims her eyes, she says, it almost

certainly could be home.

I’ve read a theory that the geography
of the American East is too soft
to floor us with its looks

like the West does. That the East absorbs
our living. Stores the cumbersome, the volatile
deposits. Is dangerous that way. My customer knew

it’s the mundane that can undo you.

One night of her childhood the Red Army appeared
at her neighbors’ house. (The girl of that family was
used to sneaking out late to find food.)

My customer says: “She had the most unbelievable
brown hair. Seventy years later and I still can’t—”
Then she squints, to rid this view of its distinctions.


It should be said of the land
              in question: it has a history

of women waiting for the men to return.
              It is thieved land. It is miry, the Massachuset

said about the river, or that’s
              one translation. By some

murky procurement, James Barrett
              also tilled here, was a colonel, lived

with his wife and son, until the British
              Regulars slogged west from Boston on a rumor

of stockpiled munitions.
              The sham furrows had already been dug;

the powder, some guns,
              and four prized brass cannons

already hid there, assuming
              the trappings of earth.

In one version, expecting them, Rebecca Barrett
              stood at the door and waved a band

of redcoats into her house, made them
              breakfast while her husband and son bolted to town.

In another, she went slack under the absence
              of a choice.

I always pictured her, afterward, circling the house
              in a high noon vigil, using her hands

as a brim to glimpse her family
              dragging down the road like a couple kids

coming back from a scrap on the playground.
              I could imagine the returned colonel, slumped

in his usual spot by the fire, saying to her plainly, as if
              only ordinarily field-worn: “Long day,

it was tough, but it’s a start, I’m so
              happy to be home.”

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