I sat in our small kitchen, one warm summer morning
waiting for the call
the rest of the family went out of town for a couple days
and decided it would be best
if I stayed behind…
to wait for the call
at 15, I was finally old enough to perform my civic duty
for this little hillbilly town
I would sit and wait, until the end of time it seemed
to see if I had been chosen as one of the elite
one of the few who would be called
to work two weeks on a farm detasseling corn
it was the talk around all the lockers
at the end of the school year
“You gonna work this summer?”
“I’m ‘gonna get me a job detasslin’ corn. It’s good money.”
only a few were selected
only the best would be lucky enough to get the call
lucky enough to spend the hot summer days
in a wooden trailer pulled by a smoke-puttering tractor
cutting the tassel, the pollen-producing flowers
from the tops of the tall stalks
bored from staring at the phone,
I went upstairs to my wood-paneled room to watch TV,
one ear toward the hallway
I paced back and forth,
stared out the window at that one weird neighbor
the one who stood on the corner for hours
chain smoking and drinking Mountain Dew
the phone never rang
on the second day I spent most of the time wondering
how they chose the people for this task
was there some sort of lottery with a lucky ticket?
would they choose based on the good works from a trusted neighbor?
did someone have to grease the palms of the local politicians?
how did one become the best
at giving corn stalks the perfect haircut?
the phone never rang
on the third day I was becoming stir-crazy
and left the house just long enough
to buy a pop at the Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken
a half block away
the rest of the time I sat at the kitchen table
staring at the clock on the stove
I stared at oven door, my reflection oozing from the glass
I opened and closed the cabinet doors a thousand times
I sat on the front steps with the door open, listening,
waving at random cars driving by
bounced a rubber ball on the front steps
until it took a bad hop and rolled somewhere down the gutter
the phone never rang
on the fourth and final day
I no longer gave a shit
I didn’t want to be the best at tassel cutting
I wanted to be the kid who wandered our small town
taking it all in
the door was open, life was full ahead
and I wanted to be out in it
the phone never rang
what else could I do,
except be comforted in the knowledge that
there was a whole town full of people
who needed a fence painted
or a yard mowed
or weeds pulled
and they were willing to pay,
just as much as the teenage migrant work
I apparently wasn’t good enough for

Selected byNolcha Fox
Image credit:Christophe Maertens

Ken Tomaro is a writer living in Cleveland, Ohio. His work centers around everyday life with depression. Sometimes blunt, often dark but always grounded in reality.

He has 4 full-length collections of poetry: Home Is Where the Headstones Are, An Angry Year, Paralysis & Potholes and Perogies (through Alien Buddha Press) available on Amazon.