Steinbeck Country

The fields near Salinas still hold
Steinbeck’s spirit within the cold fog
wrapping row after row of curly artichokes,
workers bent as they harvest the crops.

By the Salinas river, twists of fate
fold precarious lives on a whim,
dark deeds done by night,
hope dimmed by morning fog….

He is there in the vineyards of Paso Robles
where grapes of wrath hang heavy
in waiting for hoards of pickers to come.
Not from the dustbowl as in yesteryear,
but in the same desperation, workers wind
their way from across the border to the riches
of the Salinas valley and the vineyards.

In Monterrey, Cannery Row, Steinbeck’s spirit
beckons to tourists who flock to grasp words
to their hearts like fruits ripe for picking.
Derelicts still hover by doorways in old brick buildings,
but now seem clothed in glamour
reminiscent of names like Mack and Palace.
The brothels are hotels and restaurants
and gift shops with lusty ghosts and
down-and-out, ragtag youth learning
about life and love.

Steinbeck must still walk along the fields,
smelling row on row of bold onions,
tasting strawberries like rubies,
touching leafy lettuce the color of emeralds.
He surely smiles when he spies workers
with bottled water and portable latrines
taking a break from the back-breaking work,
and nods as he hears language much the same
as when he lived and loved and wrote
all those wonderful words about his beloved Salinas.

by Raynette Eitel

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