“Pears cannot ripen alone. So we ripened together.” — Meridel Le Sueur
My sisters and I would help my father
feed the owner’s cattle. We’d watch him
shovel hay from the bed of the slow-moving pickup,
driverless and pointed in the general direction of home.
In the summer, we’d pretend to be left behind
then race back to the truck. In winter,
the cab’s heater blasting, we’d watch
as cattle’s eager breath etched a chorus
of hungry moos into the frozen air.
The chore was done when the hay was gone
and we witnessed wavy furred lines
across the barren prairie landscape.
I remember the weight of your loudest threats
mapped onto your hands. You hit us to teach us a lesson,
to be quiet, or because you couldn’t hit the boss.
As we got older, and bigger, you perfected words
into weapons, making impact invisible.
Then came tender gaps of amputated time
when your anger spilled vengeance
against those you had declaimed to love so fiercely.
Forced to move into the deepest parts of nowhere,
packing tempers and testimony
this time would be better than the last.
Starting over was the goddamn point when
all you have for a legacy is your name.
That may have been one reason why
no one knew us where we were headed.
Our mutual legacy now an extension of reputation,
much like how only female cottonwood trees
shed their obnoxious cottony seeds
into the most distant, wind-driven places.