My mother’s a stranger to me

in the country

and I’m a stranger

in my mother’s country

A city kid in penny loafers,

I stumble through meadow grass,

dodge the buzz of dragonfly

off cattail


All year long

she doesn’t say much,

but on a Missouri highway,

past framed fields

and sagging fruit stands,

she points and calls them out,

“Soybeans!  Alfalfa!

Kaffercorn!  Spring clover!”


She catalogues

Uncle Harry’s place

with a twisted stick:

storm cellar, feed bin,

boysenberry patch, poison oak,

hedge apple grove

In the land of fodder

and new milk

she still climbs fences


Marie, she’s called down here,

slicing ham in a farmhouse kitchen

full of aunts and uncles

so pruned in the face

you can’t tell man from woman;

Marie, who lives in town now,

knows when to plant,

when to pick,

how to stomp rabbits from brush piles,

why store eggs have gone pale


After dishes,

she walks alone

in a barnyard of banty hens

and tractor ruts

past a shattered hot chute

she once named Corn Cob Trail,

pokes a turkey feather into a cob,

tosses it high,

watches it spin, spin down


Heading back,

we stop by Uncle Ray’s.

I see her there in her country,

the girl, again the girl,

hair black as shade,

leaning over a natural spring well:


When the ladle dips,

tiny fish scatter

in the pupils of her eyes