from Monoculture


image of farmhouse
            fire warning grass
            unrelenting blue sky  
            small child
            bolls of cotton               —a sort of fruit, woven and worn on
                                                            the skin, a kind of money—
            cotton futures
                          rolling across
ticker tape
country road
or the dabbled wet of mother’s red shirt,
the check wasn’t enough, the work was
                                somehow not enough, but, do you think, we can,
                                do you, can, could you, might, please,
                                she opens her wallet she takes out a bill
                                she hands it to father he goes to the store he
                                brings home more flour she makes a meal of it
                dollar meals
cottoning up our throats

                3/4 lb of cotton in each lb of the U.S. dollar

                —cotton, holding the world reserve
    currency, preserved so carefully, so hoardfully, so—

we gather
it in piles

we count
it tenderly

we construct great
edifices to house it

we live lives
according to

we hone our skills
in the collection of

we dole out worth
according to

we pray to
believe in it

we caress its
slight textures

we pray to it
we construct great

houses to edifice it
we pray to

we smell it on
our fingers

we can smell it
over there

we move toward
it always

like plants we
bend to it

like subjects we

we lie down
before it

we lay down
before it

we lay everyone
down before it

we prey to

we believe in


we house great
edifices to construct it

we go down
into the flatness
of it

we edifice

we believe

we supine

we sup—

—at the store
finding the wallet
peeling open your family
rubbing up against your

at the store
isn’t this the perfect shirt,
look at this scarf,
look at this blouse,
look at this tie,
look at this coat,
isn’t this the perfect,
look at those pants,
look at

at the store taking your
labor out of your wallet
pride in the crispness
of the bills exchanging
cotton for cotton—  


                    low diversity in space
    high-yield efficiency
                 and high returns on investment


covering 2.5% of the tillable earth

                                                    —lending such stability to the
                                            market, its futures, a kind of money—

                        a fruit
                                    to be eaten
                                    by the eyes

                                              and in such great rows
                                              such great quantity
                                              no longer can be beheld

                                                              or only in one’s head

                        or in the sublimity of a spreadsheet


          in the distance, a man
                        body flexing in labor
                        standing so far from the combine
                        he looks nearly of size with it

                          they’re plants, they’re
                          people, they’re planted

                                                potted ones
                                  dutifully pruned
                                                new growth cut back

                                  “to be fucked
                                  in the fruits
                                  of some labor”

                                            and in deep

                                            debt to the sun

                                            or when mother, thin on money, accepts
                  the underthetable notajob cleaning
                  the trailers housing undocumented
                  immigrants (yes, like the one where your
                  cousins lived, because how else could she know,)
                  who work underthetable on those fields
                  bodies flexing in labor and everything
                  coated in what’s left behind when
                  the sweat dries up

                  thin sales thin
                  fields thin workers

                  seasons continually thinning and th

                  and though mother, thin,
                  on money, needs it,
                  you can’t help but notice
                  that her stack of dollars
                  is the tallest for the least

                  or to be fucked by the labor of some fruit

                  or to be fucked by some cheaper
                  cotton somewhere another field
                  lost to suburban sprawlNEW MARKET
to go back into that field
                  those trailers rotting
                  monuments to extraction’s
                  extraction they’ll never
                  be cleaned of it

                  humans rooted to the now-

                                “no layoff
                                     from this”

                                their people there planted

                                            for “to plant is also
                                                  to entomb


Travis Sharp is the author of the book-length poem Monoculture (Unicorn Press, 2024) and the poetry collection Yes, I am a corpse flower (Knife Fork Book, 2021); a poetry pamphlet, Behind the Poet Reading Their Poem Is a Sign Saying Applause (Knife Fork Book, 2022); and the chapbooks Sinister Queer Agenda (above/ground press, 2018) and one plus one is two ones (Recreational Resources, 2018). He’s a lecturer in the Department of English at Howard University and is an editor at Essay Press.