Rebecca Gayle Howell

I’m Covered in It Right Now

All we grow here is cotton stalks. Thirsty weed

that sells. When summer leaves, look out:

the high ground will be fogged by bolls

the size of testicles, every inch; a reap of what

we have for what we want; of what we want.

Thirsty, but it sells. The enginepickers would lift

three, four rows, the heads and the seeds. Now

it’s all handwork: pull the lint pure. Quiet,

the labor; quiet the greed. Today I watched

a mother and son shop the market. The Kid led

that tired woman like she wore a leash. Last night,

the fox traded his hollow for two rats. Before that,

the rats ate trash because it’s all we had. Commerce.

Every action, exchange. With cotton you can stuff

your white ears white. You can swaddle your tongue

dumb. Do you understand? I mean to explain

the high demand.



This poem first appeared in The Louisville Review (#79) and is from American Purgatory (Eyewear Publishing, 2017).