Friday, October 18, 2013


White tipped Lupine, Kings River

Settling into seventy five, he glanced at almond orchards,  
the rows between evenly spaced trees slanting south, 
south-east, or east as his eyes shifted focus. The trunks 
of the nearest trees floated, the orchard dropping to earth   

exactly as his car passed, like a net falling short of him.

Another dry river. A night heron, crooked thumb, jutted 
from a dead limb in the river bed. He thought of loose hands, 
worn out, single gloves plucked from melon boxes 

and clothes-pinned to the conveyor. The case sealer  

crushed slow hands that struggled to pull jammed  
boxes clear. Anorexia's calm fingers inserted coins  
into the slot, pressed a button, and scooped up   

a soda, just before she turned, slid boxes  

to one side, and rested a .45 against her husband's head,  
a hand splattered with mud as it slapped  
the gun away.  Her husband had abandoned her  

near town, and she'd trudged twenty miles through the fields  

to the compound. They used to bet about who would kill  
whom at the "Okie Flat" packing shed. Frank once smoked  
after the conveyor broke down again while others loaded  

Goldfields and Baby Blue Eyes
By Native American Trail

by hand--wasn't in his job description. Frank was found  
dead in a car by the road, dents in his skull the size  
of a police baton, the case "inconclusive." Steve murdered
Anorexia, cutting her up like a grape stalk and burying her 

in his big red toolbox. Everyone silently suspected something  

was wrong when he hadn't shown for work on Sunday--  
time and a half. Nor would Fifi do the shuffle for the ladies 
while waiting his turn to shower in that outhouse

with a shower nozzle. Fifi had been released  

from the "vocational institute" before he was beaten  
and raped repeatedly. Driving by the last gas station  
for miles, he imagined the land without people, the canals

Native American Village Site:
Confluence of Kings River and Big Creek

almost empty, the floodplain of five rivers in wet years  
extending from the mountains to north of Tulare,  
subsiding into networks of marshes and shallow lakes,
webbed by teeming sloughs and channels, a refuge

from dunes and alkali sinks for birds along the flyway.  

Once, while he pissed, so drunk he could hardly stand,  
he teetered above the body of a great egret,  
its neck a question mark, the wings extended

in the dirt. He was done as an activist after losing

his job at the big box store for chewing gum 
and not coming in on his days off--he knew it  
as he neared houses of cardboard thrown together,

just as he recalled again the ash tree 

in the compound, a tree dreamed 
in childhood that revealed a fate no one
wanted to believe, the trunks

of loaded fruit trees blending

into one as the sun raced  
on the horizon, the last light logged
on the walls of the shed.

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