The Berry Pickers by Moni Brar

Jan 3, 2022

Dawn splits crêpe sky, moist mist of air.
There is despair here, and also life.

We tumble out of the back of a cube van.
Bodies, buckets, dented thermoses of chai,

rotis wrapped in aluminum foil, stale biscuits
for afternoon tea break. We survey the field,

pair off, are assigned rows, handed crisp cards
with our names in block letters to keep track

of our labour: put to work. Morning banter,
jokes about who will pick the most, the least,

who will tire first. Ice cream pails missing
their Snow Star lids, tied around waists with rags,

twine, wire. The men with turbans, loose end
draped across the shoulder to wipe the brow.

The women with lined faces smooth frayed hems
of their kameez. Bodies disappear into rows, hands

brimming with raspberry thorns, pick and pick.
Through the rising heat and sweat, the rustle of leaves.

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