Fragments about Planting and Harvest and What Comes in Between

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DAY OF THE DEAD

I watch the earth boil and break

bright green pushing up

row upon row,

an army risen to stand at attention

until its cut.

Wheat shoots and soybeans

push up clods of dirt,

as much miracle as corpses

shoving back dirt

to haunt the sunlight.

Babies roll over boulders

open tombs where I sit, weep,

wait for the farmer

to tell me what it means.

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But then there’s this: IMG_0022The wind shifted and blew chemical into our yard. I felt like I’d been swung out on a ride flipping me up then down, queasy, angry. It burned my face. I could taste it. I watched him spray all the way up to the tree I look to, every morning and evening when I walk out to do chores. The smell hung in our yard the next morning. The clover on the edge of our field wilted. People say it’s great to live out in the country. Well, these days not so much.

I asked about the danger at a party of neighbors. An older woman said, “Everybody does it.” And I clamped my mouth shut and crossed my arms. I don’t want to make trouble. The folks who work the land around here are neighbors (and there is more love, more community here, than you’d think that word represents.)

On the other hand, don’t these women care that it’s estrogenic?  That it can make breast cancer? That it kills the biome? People post their memes on Facebook about bio-engineered food and the evils of Monsanto. I don’t know about that. I’ve heard there is poor science in some. But I do know, how sick I feel when this stuff is laid down. I do know my brain doesn’t work well, when I’m here. Neither does Bruce’s. It’s supposed to be safe. It’s not supposed to make you ill. But I wonder how many diabetic farmers there are. How many wives and daughters have breasts gone sour. When, I wonder, when, will the ground say, “No, no more?”

I stopped over at the other neighbor’s place, since our house sits in the middle of corn and soybeans and we’re due for another dose from his side. He was working on his spray buggy, water dripping down to the gravel driveway. I asked if he could give us a call when he sprays. This is worse than the manure that can be so strong it will ruin a load of laundry hung out to dry. (The EPA will hear my call about the slurry, but I’m not so sure about the chemical. I have not called. These are my neighbors.)

“I’m careful,” he said.

“I know. But I want to put the animals inside, close up our house.” I did not say I’m due for a lumpectomy, that the docs say is pre-cancer, and the docs pat themselves on the back, saying this is why we do mammograms–to catch this early. And I have to stop myself from saying I’ve got cancer because they say it’s not, and I am not so sure.

When the surgeon’s office called for presurgery instructions, they asked me what drugs I’m on. Well, this and that, but really not much more than vitamins. But I should have added glycophosate. Doctors shrug when I ask if there’s an effect. “We don’t know.” But studies are showing there is a link to the breast cancer susceptible to hormones. Maybe I’ll call back and add this to the list. One of my Facebook friends, a neighbor a few roads over, asked me the other day, how I was doing. I said, “Fine. Morgen’s in training. I finished copy editing the book.”

“No I mean your health. I’m praying for you.”

And I breathed in silence, for the care coming my way that I didn’t even know was there.

IMG_0052So let me end with another poem. (The jar of wheat shows up in The River Caught Sunlight.  These two poems are from an unpublished poetry collection, I called The Grieving Dreams, that was the second draft of River and the last time I played with poems before I turned to sentences, because I like them more than lines.)

 

 

BEFORE HARVEST

The first summer Mr. Miller planted winter wheat,

he brought us a jar with a red rose on the lid

full of seeds smooth as fannies. He handed them

to my mother to show her what he would be planting.

 

She said yes seeds were good as kittens to teach

her children about life. The first day I took

Social Studies, we read about store-bought bread.

I told the teacher I knew about the wheat part.

“Just read the page,” she said.

 

Before harvest, we drove to church and stopped

past our lawn. In a fog, spiders wove webs

like Queen Anne’s lace as far back as the woods.

I would have begged my parents to stop and watch

until the sun if I’d known the webs would break.

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About Katie Andraski

I come to the ground, the ground comes to me. My novel The River Caught Sunlight was just published. Here's a description: "Sometimes a person has to leave home, even if that home is the most marvelous place she's ever lived, even if her mother will be diagnosed with terminal cancer, and her beloved farmer, a man she's loved for years asks her to marry him." I have taught composition at NIU for twenty years and have been writing ever since I was a little girl. My husband and I live on a farm with horses, dogs, chickens and one not so feral cat.
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4 Responses to Fragments about Planting and Harvest and What Comes in Between

  1. How frightening and heartbreaking! Deceptively beautiful. And the struggle about neighbors – I so get that. Yet it IS affecting everyone. What will it take? Take care of yourself and keep writing – I love reading and look forward to your book and wish you well on the launch. Love our cyber chats – thanks for reading mine too.

    • katiewilda says:

      Thank you for this perceptive comment. I don’t mean to be heartbreaking, but this is what’s there for me to say, if that makes sense. What it might take is the ground saying no more. It already is with bees I think…Thank you for reading me too….I am enjoying your blog a lot. There is so much there that I relate to.

  2. Hal Fickett says:

    Powerful blog post Katie. Beautiful and haunting. I love your poetry. Where do you sell “When the Plow Cuts?” I’m going to buy it. Your friend. – Hal

    • katiewilda says:

      Thank you so much for liking this post. I can’t tell you how much this means. And thank you for buying When the Plow Cuts too. Try the major booksellers for used copies…

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