Issue 35, Final Fringe

Rumble Groan Dream

by Nicole Henares Issue 4 07.08.2006

This is the street of silver harvest; musk in your mouth; knife-edged fish stink.

This is the smell of prosperity and doom where fat wooden canneries perch on rocks hungry in fog and cold and damp and metal. And when the boats chug in, thudding heavy from squirming weight, the rust pipe organs shriek trills of C sharp, and the workers come down the hills in oil cloth aprons, rubber boots and hair-nets, some wearing lipstick, some in rainbows of kerchiefs, some laughing, some still tired, already numb.  For most, this is the street where America begins in calloused hands and sweat. Though they do not sleep here, this is their street.

Six cans a minute, six cans a minute, or you are fired. Twenty-five cents an hour.

This is the street of Adelino the fisherman and Clara the canner; their marriage is a tapestry of five years and two children. Adelino speaks almost as much Spanish as Clara speaks Portuguese. This is the street of Clara’s sister, Rose, with the dandelion laugh. She is the poker champion of the Row and the first boss lady of the canners.

Six cans a minute, six cans a minute, or you are fired. Twenty-five cents an hour.

This is the street of the Martín girls: Dolores, the eldest, is the beauty. She has two children but is proud of her hour glass figure. Her once candy-pursed mouth is beginning to pull. Rosa is Dolores’s daughter. She is twelve, petite yet big bosomed. Her head is filled with Nancy Drew mysteries, and impossible romances.  When she hears the ocean she can feel her pulse with the waves. Dolores makes her say she is fourteen so she can work. Rosa’s sister is eight. She is given ribbons for her hair and stays at home. Rosa is unhappy but she must work or her mother will pull her hair.

This is Bella’s street. She is Dolores’s younger sister, the tiny one, the sickly one, the one who will marry in a wedding dress nine inches above her knees to a man from a family her father cursed. This is the street of Carmen with the girlish laugh; she is Dolores’s youngest sister and the fastest canner on the row – a thousand cans an hour. Carmen enjoys the title, but earns the same pay as everyone else.

Six cans a minute, six cans a minute or you are fired. Twenty-five cents an hour.

This is Nick’s street, Rose and Clara’s brother. He has picked up Italian, Portuguese and English so he can work on any boat in the bay. The fishermen call him “waves” because of his perfect curls. His admirers say he is “the most handsome man on Cannery Row.” The jealous say his sisters put his curls in rollers every night. He is in love with Carmen, but she refuses to acknowledge the son of a gambler.

Six cans a minute, six cans a minute or you are fired.

This is the street of Christina, twenty-five years old and fresh from a Palermo convent, and her brother, Giuseppi. Both are angel cheeked, always smiling, and in love with wine.

Twenty-five cents an hour.

This is the street of Jenna, who keeps a finger rosary in her pocket and a widow’s shroud of death over her shoulders.

This is Megumi’s street, the fish cutter with quick hands and a plan.

This is Anthony’s street, his cannery will be the first to burn.

This is Giovanna’s street. This is Katie’s street. This is Connie’s street. Isabelle’s street. Francisco’s street. Billie’s street. Anne’s street. Julia. Margaret. Richard. Adolfo. Ruth. Renee. Pablo. Gustavo. Rafael. Césario. Vivian. Carla. Diane. Beatrice. Carol. Mary. Frances. Rosemarie. Christina. Gabrielle. Jorge. Adelle. Federica. Caroline. Carlotta. Justine. Roberto. Sebastian. Sofia. Dorothy. Andrew.

Forgotten to time this is their street.

Nicole Henares

Nicole Henares

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A native of the Monterey Peninsula, Nicole Henares lives in San Francisco with two cats and one husband. Her poems are where the blues meet the mean reds and have appeared throughout the small press. Nicole will be attending New College’s Writing and Consciousness MFA Program in the fall.