POETRY I JOSH SLOTNICK TRIPLE DIGITS Jostling like electrons customers shoulder for position in a wide wiggling queue 6′ across The people in front extend to me, over our farmers market table, stuffed plastic sacks of salad mix, bunches of carrots, handfuls of tomatoes all poised for my right-now attention A shaggy baggy regular guy hands me a bunch of broccoli and I put it on the scale “That’s three dollars in broccoli” I say “How about two-fifty?” Triple digits, third day in a row Irrigation pipes on my shoulders burn through my shirt Sweat stings my eyes You are gone this afternoon and evening, being a regular kid An intern 5 years your senior helps me move irrigation lines The pipes clank on each other, bouncing with his all-over-the-place paces He sets them down, walks back and forth, picks them up, the latches slip from their hooks He retraces his steps Graceful as a moth careening around a porch light or a drunk headed for the door Watching him, I wince And I know it won’t be long and you will really be gone How many evenings have you and I done this? While the sky goes pink to orange, the mountains flatten to silhouette in the west We flop lines of pipe from one side of the mainline to the other juggle end caps, openers, T’s and elbows soak the big squash for hours keep the seed beds damp the mowed beds dry where I will till on Sunday We close the gate water roostertailing through the hot air “Two-fifty?” My farmer friend says he doesn’t have enough pressure, enough hours in the day, to keep his place from going dry before the water makes it around again What would it be like? he asks Regular people pass by the scorched earth on their way to the river beach What would it be like? To not care about water? I cannot remember and this has always been your life I see them downtown, regular people I am rushing to get back, stuck at the light They slink through the crosswalk, iced coffees in hand, cool shades, slow sundress steps, shorts slid halfway down boxers What would it be like? You will know, soon enough And I will inhale these colored clouds alone and remember all this The broccoli in the bag, not as beautiful as it could be, but respectable, the silhouetted mountains are in it, your farm childhood, the sweat in my eyes, the burn on my shoulder, the relentless worry for water It’s all there, in a sack “No, not for two-fifty Not for three bucks You can’t have the broccoli Who’s next?” JOSH SLOTNICK farms with his family near Missoula, Montana. He sells at the Missoula Farmers Market. Occasionally, he writes about these things. AUGUST 21, 2009 TEXASOBSERVER.ORG 29
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