I dress first putting on my socks,
Then my shirt—I need good habits.
– Gary Soto (“Dr. Freud, Please”)
I never understood what drove him
to irrigate his grapes at sixty-eight.
We could set our watches to the minute
he passed by, mouthing new soliloquies
as another summer morning broke
in the shadow of the Sierras, or
at the end of vine rows, hoe in hand
at dusk, a silhouette with swashbuckling
overshoes titling at time, when
he could have paid a good man well
to do the job—until recently. Of all
the things I claimed I’d never be
like my father, I wear trails in the dirt
checking calves that don’t need me,
lest I forget my way—carving circles
in dreams that wake me to write
about how we got the harvest in the shed—
my young Gary Soto days bent beneath
a hazy San Joaquin Valley sun. Even
the old dog marks a track to encircle
the house and barks into the night.