The broccoli was outsize that season, the heads dark
green and faceted like emeralds. It was about this time
that our neighbor’s pumpkin plants crept over the fence,
the runners imperceptible until huge orange goblin-heads
appeared in our yard.
A broccoli moon flowered over the children who played
barefoot, using the concrete path by the rose garden as
an imaginary badminton net. Every so often one of them
would come back to the house crying because she had
stepped on a thorn.
Strange reports began to come from the fishermen, of
mermaids suctioning themselves to incoming boats so
they had to be scraped off like starfish. They didn’t sing, as
Odysseus would have us believe; rather, they barked like
crows. Teenage boys began to sit on the rocks and whistle
at them, and they would come, dumb creatures, allowing
themselves to be kissed. But their kisses were slimy as the
underside of a snail, and the boys pushed them back into
This all happened one summer, if you can believe it. After
my mother picked the broccoli, her hands glittered for days.
Land of flat-bottomed clouds and citrus trees planted
in maddeningly straight rows, of tractor-trailers with
bumper stickers reading I’m in Graceland Baby and State
of Jefferson, I want to write a love letter to each room
honeycombed in the pink motel on the edge of the 99,
dim even in the most brilliant afternoon sun, to its stained
carpet and God’s blessing infomercials and the sound
of rust through plumbing; to the women of Chowchilla,
pacing in their cells, to whom age comes like a crow on
a high power line; and to the coyotes on the far edges
of Fresno County, lean and ravening, who are made of
orange moonlight and never sleep.
Taylor Altman lives in San Francisco, where she practices law. Her poems have appeared in Blackbird, Notre Dame Review, Salamander, and other journals. Her first poetry collection, Swimming Back, was published in 2008.