August in the San Joaquin
The corn’s been harvested
and the stalks stand tall and brown,
crowded in rows
like surrendering soldiers.
The cotton is thigh-high
and the grapes are almost ripe.
My father is buried here
amid the almonds and palms,
the bracken and stubborn sun.
Does he perceive the rise and fall of life?
Does he hear my greeting and my mother’s sobs,
or my daughter’s hesitant,
“As-salamu alaykum Giddo...”
Or does his gaze fall on another world,
joyful and terrible?
I don’t know what games he played as a child,
or what he dreamed of.
Was he proud of his life?
I can’t ask him now.
I know he was tired at the end, and fearful.
I wish it had been easier for him.
Though I saw him after he died
and he seemed peaceful then, smiling.
Trucks laden with tomatoes
head west to the ports,
looking like red-backed beasts.
The rivers are dry sand
and the sky is high and hard.
It’s August in the Valley
and everyone is counting the days,
waiting for a change in the air
and an offer of relief.
Wael AbdelgawadAugust 25, 2013