I’m a little more prairie than you, Mom.
Grew up a stone’s throw from winding,
forested trails. Trees arched over gravel
roads, and the place in the powder sky
where their branches met, a cathedral ceiling.
You buried downed birds in shallow graves,
in a vacant lot by your apartment. I watched
a whole deer decompose in a field. Made a school
project of her. Every quarter, on my class trip
to buckthorn country, to the task of weeding-out
invasive plant species, I saw the same doe
sink deeper into the ground. Drew her outline
on a worksheet more and more skeletal
with each visit to her muddy bedside. Mom,
you too have watched the seasons change.
Your childhood rotted into caretaking,
like a sun-bleached cordgrass giving
its whole self back to the ground.
When you were seven, you started buying
the family’s groceries each week—
cans of beans stacked in a bike basket,
cradled by cornstarch and white flour.
In elementary school, all my teachers
had the same four-pronged chart
of the seasons: spring turned
summer, then a gentle decline
into fall and a snowman
smiling through winter.
Nothing in nature actually follows
this pattern. A field mouse breeds
too many young, swallows
half of them back into herself.