We sit cross-legged in the shade
on the dirt that crunches underneath
muddied boots, heads brushing thorny undersides
of the trees we lean against, the clean tangy smell
of smooth lemon leaves.
The top layer of soil dried too quickly
in the sun and curled up into thin little
desert crags interspersed with snail
poison and dead leaves and long
rotted fruit. From the backs of trucks
and carts we pull out coolers filled
with melted ice, cans of cola and tortas, plums
wrapped in paper towels and peanut butter
sandwiches I’ve been waiting for
since we checked in, 7 a.m., since before
when we stood around the yard to shoot
the breeze, except me
hija del patrón
bored white girl on summer break
awaiting morning orders
Go to Block 13, then 8 and 9
Then the roads, they’re picking Block 4
You remember which one?
Noon exactly, union rules
we leave the watering truck by the side
of the dirt road lined with crates
of picked fruit, cease hauling sprinklers
and looking for broken hoses;
The business of getting life out of
dry barrancos and arroyos.
Half an hour, no more no less
goes slowly next to the impotable water station
a pipe thicker than my arm that extends
from a pole rising into the sky.
The crashing sounds of machinery and
traffic noise come from acres away, but
the hum of bees is close — they hope
to share in lunchtime.
I carry a book in a Ziploc in my cooler
to protect it from the ice and we
pull hats over our eyes
stretch legs into the afternoon sun
burning off all trace of morning fog.
Only I put on sunscreen.
At 12:30, we grab our coolers
toss half-chewed fruit into the trees
to disappear, climb back into the
trucks for the lazy part of the day
the sweaty countdown to 3:30
when from the trees and fields around us
people will emerge to climb into now
dusty cars without air conditioning
and go home.