Deborah Ager

Mangos in Florida

–Tampa, 1942

If they liked mangos, we’d have none,
mama says. We move yard to yard.
We squat and bend to pick up fruit.
She slides her full hand deep into the sack
to keep the fruit from bruising. I see a curtain
move in the house and wish for better clothes.
My dress has holes — too small to see,
mama says. But even a needle does nothing
to fabric this thin. The threads I’ve sewn
hang over holes like a weak bridge.
The sun is a torch on my burnt ear tips;
it won’t let up. I am dreaming of yellow
meat, sweet threads sewing my tongue quiet.
I know how to make once piece of toast last,
not to complain when my back throbs.
My hands slip over the smooth mango skin.
The air is an oven and won’t let up —
not even for two hungry women
calculating how long this fruit will last.



“Mangos in Florida” first appeared in Delaware Poetry Review.