The King of Tomatoes

I broke our traditional silence
with talk of work and weather,
“This heat must be hard
on old man Wyser.”
My father’s sun-baked face
creased with a smile,
“The only white people
you see in the fields
are sitting on tractors.”

I laughed
as the picture flashed:
a proud king
of tomatoes
astride
his John Deere chariot,
overlooking
the ordered rows
of his vegetable kingdom.

Then I saw
my dad’s brown hands picking
tomorrow’s rent money
from the vine,
heard the constant buzz
of bills in his ears
no matter how much he swatted,
and felt the crack
of the sun’s whip
on his bent back,

and I stopped laughing.

“The King of Tomatoes” was first published in Blue Collar Review in 2008.

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