On hands and knees between two rows of dry
potato plants, I sweated far from the rest.
Otōsan had dug the ground for me with two
great sweeps of the tractor, up and back, so that
the roots of all came loose at once and made
simple the task to fill my red pail heaping.
No rain for weeks made cracks appear that sliced
the soil into great slabs, heavy as rock,
and those I moved—teeth grinding slow to keep
from thinking of the rays of sun that lit my back
ablaze and how my fingertips felt ripped
open each time I dug at the coarse soil,
in search of smoothness. But when I lifted that mound
of earth, I saw a swarm of black and beady ants
who, caught off guard, looked up at light in fear.
Some ants with creamy eggs clenched in their mouths
burrowed back down into the dark for safety,
and still a few brave souls rushed up my arms
to bite: kill or be killed. I could not help but smash
them dead—to stop the pinching pain perhaps,
but more so because my mind forgot to care.
I watched one crumple off my forearm,
and there where it fell, on an overturned clump,
a crusty cocoon shone silver and large—
asleep, curled like the moon. It was as big
as a tomato worm, which is why I thought
Otōsan would want it gone before it could
lay eggs. So taking its body between thumb and
forefinger, I squeezed and saw milky liquid
spurt out. And then I sat, eyes wide and hand drenched
in the sticky white blood, chilled by the hot air.