Northern California

by Rage Hezekiah

You stood at the edge
of the stone fruit orchard

while I scaled the ladder,
a picking basket against

my belly, brimming
with shiny-ripe plums.

Father, you came
to California willing

to farm at my side,
practiced shattered

Spanish with men
I’d befriended. When

I left after lunch
to get high, you never

said a word about
the workday. You

let me be guiltless
& young. On the weekend

we cruised the 101,
ate green tea ice cream

beneath eucalyptus—
air salted sweet. We

wandered Muir Beach
in tranquil awe, until

surf chased us back
toward the dunes,

pants heavy-wet,
both laughing. Before

you learned to swim
& I learned black joy

we doubled over
taunting each crested

broken wave, at play
with an ancient tide—

wide grins agleam
in the sun.

From Yearn. Diode Editions, 2022.
Reprinted with permission.

Read this and other poems by Rage Hezekiah in Northern California, available for purchase online.