Bethany Schultz Hurst

Fruits of Our Labor

Health officials found a coyote carcass
in the freezer at the local Chinese buffet
and mostly everyone seemed relieved
it was not a dog. I’m not quite at ease.
How can I still crave a bowl
of that egg flower soup? I should be
careful with what I carry. My belly, huge
and helpless, demands every car stop
at crosswalks and every door be opened
for me. I rinse and rinse each berry
in my breakfast bowl, delivered to me
by men who walk in biohazard suits
through the strawberry rows. I do not
breathe in too deeply when passing by
the industrial-scale orchard: those flawless
blooms, their pesticide coats. What kind
of bird still nests in those trees? What
kind of hatchling? I’d advise them
to keep on flying but what tree or field
is left to make into a home? After dinner,
I find myself walking through the wrong door
into the restaurant kitchen and wish
the workers in their hairnets would tell me
their opinion about which fancy stroller
I should buy. They have other
concerns. Their faces are masked
by scalding dishwasher steam. My plate
was so clean. I have a feeling all sorts
of things are kept back here,
and I have never seen. When the pains
begin to seize my belly, I breathe in deeply
over and over and remind myself
I am a flower waiting to unfold.
I am handled very carefully
by men wearing gloves. I am worried
they won’t be safe enough.

Bethany Schultz Hurst is the author of Miss Lost Nation, which won the 2013 Robert Dana-Anhinga Poetry Prize. Her work has been selected by Sherman Alexie to appear in Best American Poetry 2015, and her poems have recently appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Gettysburg Review, New Ohio Review, Rattle, and River Styx. She lives in Pocatello, Idaho, where she teaches at Idaho State University.