Tomatoes all day, he unloads the crates,
nozzle-washes each red Globe, each red
Bonny Best, feeds them through the box of steam.
Tomatoes all day, he lugs full buckets
to the buzzards on stools at the skinning tables.
His shift’s a song that goes on and on, no dropped notes.
Melody on the upbeat, he strings the notes
while he fetches buckets, stacks the empty crates,
daydreams about pies on a plank table.
Melody on the upbeat, her chokecherry lips
kiss him again through the steam
of peas and backbones in a pot, all the corn shucked.
Break-time on the stoop, work-shirts shucked,
the boys beg him to cut loose, pick the notes,
play Worried Man Blues, play Waking Dream.
Break-time on the stoop, the boys sit on crates,
offer him gum, a smoke, pickled beets.
Not today. He piles crates for a table.
His head throbs. His case on the crate-table,
he buffs his Gibson’s sunburst body, plucks
one string, the cry of a fox, a small bruise.
His head throbs, and his hand. Not today. No notes,
no Waking Dream. Horn-worm stung him, ate
into his palm. He dreams
he gets her to walk with him again, dreams
they find a keepsake for her vanity-table—
turkey feather, knap-stone, antler, agate.
To get her to go, he’ll bathe with a bucket,
scrub the juice off his hands, sing the notes
he’s strung for her, robin bright, fire true.
Tomato gleam, ruby whiskey, tomato blues,
notes but no song, brass check for every bucket,
each check a tooth that fell from the bashed mouth
of the mummy-men at the skinners’ tables.
Tomato pulp on his arms, the hissing box of steam,
crumb of brick, his cotton mouth, busted crate.
Tomatoes all day, red Globes, stack the crates,
feed the steam, string the song, tote the buckets.
Her pie on his table. Fire in his notes.