You don’t mind
They tickle at first
and only hurt later
when the quills
pierce your gut.
The beak is loud
and the eyes are easy
as long as you don’t
meet their stare.
It’s the feet
that make you gag,
in your throat
until you cough up
toe after toe
filthy with pride.
Sugar Snap Peas, 1970
I’m sitting on a folding chair so big
it nearly swallows me, on a concrete slab
so big it nearly swallows both chair and child.
There is a large plastic tub at my feet
mounded with snap peas.
Someone has spent the morning picking them
from the tidy rows in Grandma’s garden.
I’m wearing a white t-shirt with a green collar,
green hems on the sleeves, green number 4.
This makes me smile, because I am four years old
and I am proud to have been
entrusted with this chore.
I will sit here for hours, snapping the ends
of each pod and discarding the strings.
I will take satisfaction in every crisp break,
in every relative that marvels at my stamina.
I will learn the word conscientious.
My small wrists will ache. I will hear
the other kids playing tag behind the house
but I will not stop. My grandfather will start
strumming his guitar and I will not stop.
I will not stop even when Grandma offers
a peek into her jewelry box, a lesson in crochet.
Nearly forty years later I’m still at it.
Every day a series of hard snaps and slow pulls.
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