SNAPPING BEANS

1955

 

Four brothers and a sister

squat on overturned buckets

around a basement drain

snapping beans, listening to a woman

with a sunshine voice

sing a song on the radio

about falling in love.

 

Behind them

mason jars sit in the musk

of homemade pine shelves,

dented pots on an antique stove

bubble with tomatoes and rhubarb.

Sauerkraut fermenting

in a chipped crock from Austria

mixes a sweet sour scent

with mold in the stone walls.

 

This tableau has been staged in memory.

It doesn’t tell how they fought,

how deals were made:

you scrub them down,

you snap the tips,

you break them into equal parts.

 

It doesn’t tell

what they sealed inside,

why the youngest boy, even now,

crimps his mouth

to hide oversized teeth,

why the girl poses sideways,

fearing laughter and her image

on the other side of the lens.

 

It doesn’t tell

they crouched like that

all afternoon in July heat,

forced into a circle

they would never comprehend,

scooping handfuls of wet beans

from chipped porcelain tubs,

snapping segments

of snicker and shadow,

dividing time so fast

they never noticed

their wrinkled hands.

 
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