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Richard Stimac

Field Work

Workers in the Garden by Edvard Munch

I slave under the summer sun.
My skin grows dark.
Like the fading of my own shadow,
black in my self-image, I root
deep into the top soil, full of crops
I judiciously garden: ebony blue of eggplant;
green of collard and turnip; uncircumcised
shafts of okra; chthonic white flesh of the yam.

I take refuge in this abstract survey
of the earth. A form of real estate I own.
Land is not chattel that can steal
away in the night. What is mine is mine.
The law confirms in me as much.
I have my peace. What more
is there for any of us?

That is how I seed the world.
There is no truth above the law.
Yet, I suspect there are bodies buried
in these raised beds, tombs
of board and nail and joint.
If I dig, I fear to find ossified history.
I am pale like bones.
My sin is indifference.

Beyond my garden wall, injustice
spreads its rhizomes, pushes bitter
roots downward, noxious stems to the skies.
I cannot keep this construct at bay;
a part must be of the whole. As I weed,
my mind wanders, through the gate,
down the path, up the street, to what
this country life, this heart of the heart
of the country, might have been,
given different sowing.

But that is the garden of mine own
imagination: each, separate, equal,
has an owned plot of land.
Ownership is freedom.
We know we must believe so.
This is a harvest worthy of tender.
I test the fullness of this yield’s fruit,
select the good from the bad.
In the fall, my darkness fades.
I will sleep through the snow,
hidden from the fading winter sun.


About the writer:
Richard Stimac has published a poetry book Bricolage (Spartan Press), over forty poems in Michigan Quarterly Review, Faultline, and december, and others, nearly two-dozen flash fiction in Blue Mountain, Good Life, Typescript, and several scripts. He is a fiction reader for The Maine Review.

Image: Workers in the Garden by Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Oil on canvas. 41.9 x 52.7 inches. 1915. Public domain.

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