I’m no more than last year’s harvest,
the boy I was, lost in fields owned by
other men. If I could write, I’d wash
these hands. My wife was young. Together
in dark, children sleeping beside us,
we dance our cries, grunts, moan
the only music that is ours. We reckon
when by the five times she grew
beautiful as fruit, water broke, glistening
dirt between bare feet as we worked
the rows. Five afterbirths we ate,
fried in a pan with new onions.
Children are a sweet, killing weight.
We’ve kept three sons. Two daughters
we’ve sold to the woman who deals them
to white couples who own everything
in the world but them. In the U.S.
they grow perfect as stars, as dawn birds,
we’ve been told. I work fields owned
by someone else, corn, cane. I make
nearly nothing a day. My wife, half that.
Sons will bury us in the field
of another man. We’ll hear
families above plant, reap, break
their water, sell their daughters.
David Citino is the author of twelve volumes of poetry, most recently The News and Other Poems (University of Notre Dame Press) and The Book of Appassionata: Collected Poems and The Invention of Secrecy (both from Ohio State University Press). Paperwork (Kent State University Press), a collection of essays, was published in 2004. He is contributing editor of The Eye of Poetry: Six Views of the Art and Craft of Poetry (Oxford), and teaches at Ohio State, where he is Poet Laureate of the University.