“I had to spray Johnson grass in a vineyard of Thompson Seedless…with a mixture of malathion & diesel fuel…”
—Larry Levis, ‘In 1967’
In 1974, we stumbled behind an Israeli
tractor with a heavy hose,
dousing weeds between rows of cotton
in toxic broth. Told not to touch
but of course we did, high up
in the peach trees, sunlit and sprayed,
splitting that perfect velvet skin
with tainted thumbs.
At the sorting shed the ripe
rolled down conveyor belts,
and we pulled the sorry bruised ones
that couldn’t be sold, laid them out
for lunch like the dogs
near the toolshed—
tongues hung with saliva,
their loose open jaws.
—Published 13th of August 2020
About Abby Caplin
Abby Caplin’s poems have appeared in Love’s Executive Order, Salt Hill, TSR, Tikkun, and elsewhere. She has been a finalist for the Rash Award in Poetry, semi-finalist for the Willow Run Poetry Book Award, and a winner of the San Francisco Poets Eleven. She is a physician in San Francisco.