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Syndic Literary Journal

Poetry by Chris Giovacchini


by Chris Giovacchini

Photo by Joel Mertens

Machine of a Man

Suddenly, the elephant garlic is too big.
It hasn’t been planted customarily
During the full moon in November.
The jeep battery goes dead.
Tippy nudges and drools at his elbow
For handouts once taboo.
She remembers that he doesn’t.

The shovel is missing.
The raised vegetable beds are untended.
A homemade bird house is hung upside down.
In the shed, wine is turning to vinegar.

An aviary of wooden birds, whose pinwheel wings
Represent a progression of prototypes,
Hang crippled in the garden breeze.
He can’t get a dial tone on the television remote control.
The workbench and tools that created reindeer for Christmas,
Cats and dogs when it rained, lie silent, in chaotic repose.

In spite of the latest medications, swallows weave the air,
Building mud nests in the corners of his mind.

A kiss on the cheek from
An old acquaintance, he rants, is a secret affair.
Television is mysterious array of images.
“Is that guy talking to me?”, he asks.

Wrist watch worn upside down reflects a change in time.

It’s a stigmata, on the family heart, that bleeds through stoic
Bandages and concealing clothes.

We cope.
We hold hands, I scratch his back, we sit together,
I ply and stretch his clenched hands.
When our eyes meet I tell him I love him,
“I love you too,” he replies.

“I don’t know where I am,” he says. “This is a nursing home,” I answer.
“Where do I go from here?”, he asks. “Go toward the light,” I tell him.

A tireless machine of a man.
An old piece of farm equipment,
Retired to a far corner of the field, oxidizing.

‡   ‡   ‡   ‡   ‡

PELIGRO: POISON FIELDS / Photo by Gayanne Fietinghoff c.1972

McFarland, CA

for Marta Romana Rodríguez

The Heartbeat of Agriculture has arrhythmia.

Babies born without fingers and toes,
Harlan hawks lay soft-shelled eggs.
The promising latino quarterback has leukemia.
Chemical company silver, jingles in the pockets
Of senators and congressmen.

Children die of liver cancer.
Plump produce is juicy, tough, tasteless, barren.

It takes a couple of generations to get any satisfaction from the E.P.A.
They are buried alive under bushels of blurred, diluted and delayed
Results that are always, “inconclusive”. Public servants order more soil
And water tests, hoping they’ll some day say everything is okay.
They can’t say it’s safe to live in Mc Farland, but they won’t say say it isn’t.

The soil is dead. Campesinos are sprayed alive under the watchful eye of the U.S.D.A.
Smiling agricultural chemical sales persons act as advisors. The answer is always more
Herbicide, pesticide, and fungicide.

María’s hair is falling out. Pablito has a skin rash. Little Pedro bumps into things.
Capitol Hill gets fumigated facts from lobbyists whose job it is to stall a little bit
Longer. The victims are a nonvoting minority. Macho fathers cry at funerals of
Their American dream children. The system is nervous, it
Shakes and trembles from over exposure.

The Heartbeat of Agriculture has arrhythmia.

The skeletons of chemical warfare are standing in toxic residue, Leftovers from putting food on Americas table.
Billboards boast, “food grows where water flows.”
Water quality specifications are fudged.
Residuum causes cancer in farm workers.

The Heartbeat of Agriculture has arrhythmia.

It’s systemic, translocated by profiteering
And poor people hungry for upward mobility.

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Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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