Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Day Labor

by Deborah Bayer

In July’s heat I go blackberry picking
and come upon a bounty,
warm and swollen with juice.
My hands grow sticky and purple,
arms scratched, mouth asking
for just one more.
It is a leisurely hour or two.
Queen Anne’s Lace, stout yarrow,
and bold thistle tumble
across the scrubby field.
A Common-Yellowthroat calls.
My response is a round of
open-throated Hallelujahs.
Innocent clouds hover over the river.

As a child I peeled ripe Red Havens
for father’s breakfast.
He couldn't bear to touch a peach.
Two seasons of migrant work
and a lifelong repulsion.
He never said much about it.

I grow satisfied, my labor is my pleasure.
With two bulging quarts nestled
in a sturdy bag, I leave thorny
plants behind, begin the walk
to my destination, a lap of luxury.
In the bean field by the dirt road,
two figures crawl on hands and knees
between bean rows.
Their movement startles me,
ragged long-sleeve shirts and
dirty ball caps.
Their backs, rounded.
Their weeding, confident and swift.
At last they stand and stretch.
Middle-aged, maybe man and wife.

A strong urge flushes my face,
shyness seizes me or maybe it’s shame.
I do not approach the weary pair,
bow, and offer them bright berries
from a briar patch near muddy water.

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