The scent of peaches rose from his hands

as he stood behind the counter,

weighing fruit.  Slashed across both cheeks

were twin tattoos-marks that could have

been made by ink-stained claws.

What do they mean?

the customer asked, staring.  He counted

out change, pooled pennies

in her upturned palm.  Once I worked

for a corporation, he said, then pointed

to his face-these make sure I can never

go back.   He watched her walk

away, his eyes clear as well water, his old

life shifting on the bottom

like a wooden bucket, rotting.

Terri Kirby Erickson is the award-winning author of two collections of poetry, Thread Count (2006) and Telling Tales of Dusk (2009, Press 53).  Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals, anthologies and other publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, JAMA and Verse Daily. In 2009, her work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net
Award.  For more information, please see her website at:


I wrote "Farmers' Market" after an actual encounter with a man who worked in a farmers' market, who had these claw-like tattoos on his face. They were so unusual that I couldn't resist asking him about them.  He told me that he'd once held a high-powered corporate position--the kind of job to which he never wanted to return.  The tattoos were a symbol of liberation from his previous lifestyle, and would also (he told me) make it difficult for him to return to the corporate world if he were ever to be tempted.  "Farmers' Market" was born from that intriguing conversation.



Copyright 2009