Two dogs on a yellowed, upturned plate

Father / talks to the fields like talking to you, / tills the soil like knowing you.

Two sad-looking dogs huddle together in a field of yellow wheat under a dark, cloudy sky.

Content warning: allusions to grief


We are putting in a crop
on a drought year. Father
talks to the fields like talking to you,
tills the soil like knowing you.
His words and actions fit together

like two halves of a tally. I have
never felt at ease with him.
Of everything I’ll grow up to be
I am guilty. That’s the drought
talking, but it’s right. We don’t

say what we know, don’t say what they do.
His is a mean country. If he could dig
it up, tamp it down, score it, fish it,
flood it, he could never flood it, but
score it, cut it, slice it. I remember

a pocket knife gone awry. I wrapped
his hand in grease cloth to join you
in the field, the tractor going all the while
and the pad of his thumb next to my
bare feet in the kitchen like straying

apple-skin. Swearing to give
God hell. Could suffering ever be
a good reason to a man like that? You want
to be gritty. You’re gritty like cornmeal
in my porridge and a quick jam.

You’re not gritty, you’re
granular like strawberries
I take from the vine and
put in my mouth. Silt-flecked you,
made when stone is worn

away by water or ice, when small
stones scrape riverbeds, making
smaller stones, which collide and
become smaller and collide and
become silt. This

might be the only absolution
you’ll receive. I’d say our insides
might be silt-lined, but prayer
is so short. And the dry,
so long. You woke me

up when it wasn’t even morning,
not even Dad could have ever
called it morning. The river
looked like a soft grey string. Well-
worn. A little loved. I was glad

to be alone, but I don’t like
being left behind. I can’t
leave, because if two do
the same thing, it isn’t
the same thing.

I’d like to show you I’m alive.
When I see you, I’ll meet you
with my face on. Still,
say grace. Say goodnight. Say it
is. Say you will. Or I will guess.

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