Popcorn, Karlen Lambert



My father’s calloused hands

force sugarcane broken

as he pulls leaves clean

from stalks.

This dusty town fills our lungs

with stifled coughs. The wind

writhes between fingers clamped

across mouths. The sun

thrashes like a hooked trout.

I stop and bite a clean stalk

and taste faint honey and dirt.

He smacks his palm against

the back of my head, gestures

to the teeming field.

I begin to pull again.

The wind whips a stem

across my back.

My cries are swept away.

I watch three heavy shoots

smash my father’s face.

He bites and suckles his bleeding lip

and wipes his cut cheek.

His eyes never leave his hands.

A dust storm approaches

on the horizon. Pebbles bite our faces.

My father erodes beside me

as we rip sugarcane with faces down

until dawn.



About the Author

Alex Zhang · Columbia University

Alex Zhang is a freshman at Columbia University from Portage, Michigan. His work has been featured or is forthcoming in Rust + MothBlueshift JournalThe Adroit JournalSierra Nevada Review, Best Teen Writing of 2016, and other publications. “Sugarcane” first appeared in The Adroit Journal. 

About the Artist

Karlen Lambert · Guilford College

“Popcorn” first appeared in The Greenleaf Review. 

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