A year without grass

Girl and Goat 4

By Timothy Matthew Perez

I tell Father, I have nothing to water.
Good, he says, good—you have nothing
to water,

water is too expensive and it gives
nothing back.

My father says this. The same man who
irrigated fields from Ventura through
the central valley.

The same man who left hoses to run all night
on orange trees that never bore fruit only
sacks of pale seeds.

I shake my head at his madness and smile
wringing my hands.

My children run around, clouds of dust pursue
them like phantoms.

They stand near the French drain as it pumps
gray water from the dish and washing machine.

They drop to the ground giggling rolling
themselves in splinters, pebbles, the spiked
seeds of puncture vine and stand bleeding

pointing in amazement at the dirty water that spills
over their feet filling hole-y shoes

and they stand in amazement scratching
until the quick of their nails is blood stained.

The youngest begins to wail; he picks up a rock,
begins to shatter the earth around the muddy
hole the water splashes staining his face.

The oldest clenches his fists, grinds his teeth
and I imagine the sound of a stone cutter and he
pounds at the packed earth wishing for rain,

wishing for green, wishing. And the water teases
them with its gurgle; with its coo like that of newborn.

And they pound and pound and pound at the earth
and I watch this perched on a mound of ruined soil
attempting to find the right concoction of tenderness

to put it all into words; to plant the tiny seeds that flit
around so easily so carelessly; fodder for birds and bugs

and black things that wriggle and munch through
the darkness knowing there is nothing you can do
to stop them.

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