In That Ditch
the sun scorched one, built of fertile earth, in that barren dirt lot tucked between Albertson’s and the empty strip mall, filled with tires and glass, its walls decaying, neglected and forgotten, i stalked my prey, with crane-like precision, hunched over, shin deep in cool, crystal clear, swift flowing water, shaded from summer’s relentless, torturing heat by an ancient, gnarled fig tree, full of tender, ripe fruit, muddy, frayed levis rolled to my knees, bare feet caress fully, embracing and molesting every algae covered, pebble, stick, and, stone, slimy, soiled hands, snatching up frogs, minnows and crawdads, filling a paint bucket, before walking home through the old orchard, to greet my mother and hose off for supper.
She passed every afternoon, with hoe and basket, Nón lá tied tight with silk.
She traveled for several miles, from field to household, after ten hours in dirt.
She always carried gifts for me, nourished from her sweat, picked by her calloused hands.
She left them with no expression. The same ritual each day as the sun set.
We never spoke, not even once, me knowing English, her knowing Hmong-Mien.
She stacked them at my door one day I could not be there yet her package was left.
Then one afternoon she was gone I could not find her. She was never thanked
Now when I eat fresh strawberries, I imagine that Houa Phan picked them for me.
David was born in Fresno, California, in 1983. He spent the first twenty three years of his life in the San Joaquin Valley of California. He currently lives in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and attends North Idaho College, where he is studying for a degree in English. He would like to thank his wife and daughter for their patience, understanding, and love.