Mary Stone

A Man Tells You What is Good
by Mary Stone

But – it is not the rain-soaked sunflower fields of this mild summer
that have outgrown your father and his tractor. So the flowers do not

absorb him, your father moves along the edges of the field. Stops
every thirty minutes to check for straight lines – the shape of his pride –
and leafy ruins from the highway.

He tells you, Any plant that is not wanted is a weed,

and this is what you think of in the morning, how easily a story can begin
in a soybean field in Kansas, men spraying herbicide only to be

surprised by resistance, with men calling each other, saying,
I can’t believe it because they had bred their super plants in labs and forced
them to mutate, made them strong enough to withstand any god’s

heavy hand. You want to think your father does not want to destroy
this field or any field or anything, that he never shot the stray dog
he called Little Shit, that his hands are not packed with shrapnel.

You want to think that he spends his day repairing a porch swing to share
a beer with a neighbor. Perhaps he has forgotten how he used to carry you

up to bed on his back and kneel beside you praying for those in limbo,
the murky halfway house for unbaptized babies and anyone else he’d
known to have died, how he never said your mother’s name those nights.

Maybe the sunflowers track what lies beyond the sun and your father
sees their necks stretch and knows they are good, and he watches the field

spread beyond the Missouri border, into the river, petals smoothing underbellies
of catfish, then past the bluffs, these simple weeds surpassing eight feet

and ten feet and even twenty, so tall he no longer has to shield his face
with his hand, they come up through the cracks in the asphalt,
weave through windows in suburban homes, unhinge doors in cities,

and you don’t really know your father can see this all,
that he believes that maybe they originated elsewhere
but he keeps buying tractors that are shiny and red

and survive every time a man-made levee breaks, and he’s too busy
working, too low to the ground to see for himself

what was so good and grand about it all anyway.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 18, Issue 3.

Mary StoneMary Stone is the author of Mythology of Touch and One Last Cigarette. She currently lives and writes and teaches English in St. Joseph, MO.

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