Junious Ward

Love as an Object Lesson, Cornfield

Her hand is a frenzy of shuck, silk, worm & toss
but my mind is on the road-hugging honeysuckle

nearby. I never liked the taste of corn let alone
the struggle of detasseling. I drift between rows

to escape the white throat of mom’s bucket
when I know she is looking for me

to help. In the neighbor’s field, among the tall
stalks, her back stoops as the sun just stands there,

helpless & hot. I think how did this happen, why
am I here? She wails and my knees give. She claws

frantically at something dark & vague.
I’m close by but the dirt is a cloud. We forget

I’m there. The confession I’m not meant to hear:
transplant, small town isolation, hollow husk.

Before settling on Carolina there was the question
of North to her family or South to his.

Even not moving at all meant breaking
ground, meant a blossom of constraints, meant

these are all Joe’s friends and sometimes
I don’t know why I’m here!
To sow

and to harvest both begin and end with a fist
tearing away at the soil. I reappear to wrap her,

to console an ache I can’t gather, vanish into
a vanishing, to hold under the pulse

of a tumbling storm. What does it mean to stay?
A crop at what cost? A meal worth us all

sitting and waiting for? I catch sight of mom
in the kitchen moments before she’d bring dinner

to the table. She’s staring into the stockpot, brimming
with cob & heat, preoccupied with wrinkles in the water,

curated smile of uneven rows, sandy strands
floating wildly until brushed behind an ear.