My grandpa's skin was the same color as the earth he tilled and planted every summer. His straw hat and forehead, glistening. The black crescents under his fingernails packed with good honest dirt. The green sharp smell of the sun-hot tomato vines. Pale football-sized watermelons heavy on the side of the low earth mounds. Papa's waistband five shades sweat-darkened. Handle of the hoe and shovel long rubbed paint-free. The dirt so brown, powdery and silt-fine between your fingers and underneath the secret chocolate-brown rich earth that feeds the secret white hair-fine rootlets of the carrots, the cucumbers, the yellow-blooming cantaloupe vines, the spidery tall tomatoes, the bell peppers small and glossy, the sprawling cabbages lacy with caterpillar-bites, the short jalapenos and the tiny radishes.

My dad's garden: flat, sun-blasted and populated with straggling weeds and knee-high cornstalks that bowed under the heat. A relic, really, the tree-lined acre edged with ancient oaks and honeysuckle and a patch of blooming iris. But not even the weeds sprouted green from the poisoned earth. Every August, Dad sprayed the garden hose through the garden as if hoping a sprinkling of well-cold water could revive the crop. Every year we harvested nothing we could eat.