Leaving the Husks 

It’s just a field
flanked by bales of wheat
wearied by the shadow of freeway, 
of windbreaks, combines lumbering
across the county roads.  

We pass the wheat,
these guardians of memory, 
the mice in the barns, the attics, 
the walls of fleeting houses.  I think to ask
of ash that had littered the roadways, 
of the blades that cut, that break the surface. 

We return to Pine Knot, 
the cabin where Oates still hangs above the door.  
I stand where the grass has risen
into stalks and smell the bull pines.
The grass speaks like wheat, in secret.  

The outhouse, once a shed, 
remembers its golden moon, 
the pruning shears, the gasoline fumes.
I run my fingers along the latch
and hear the spiders reorder themselves, 
the dramatic envy of legs
terrifying the lock to catch.

The mower echoes through the grass
as my grandfather passes through. 
I run my hands along their heady sways.
He is fading into that dry scent of wheat
as the swirls of dragonflies tug the wind, 
coaxing it as they drift.  

My grandmother sits under the cottonwoods
with her feet in netted shoes.  
Flakes settle into our hair
while she ignores the darners and closes her eyes.
I feel the soft tug of wings in my hands
as the husks lift the wind.


Poem originally appeared in Etchings c/o Illura Press, 2010. Etchings ran from 2006-2014.