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Names of Crops

A poem

Published on:
January 16, 2018
Read time:
1 min.
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At a mile, measured
along the muzzle plane of my father’s arm,
iron-sighted between forefinger and thumb,
a dog-speck loped across the nail of his index,
fully-formed, flea-sprung
from that pate of keratin.
He called it forth:
Ky-oat. Coyote.

The man had a hawk’s vision:
So far away, the feral form floated in the fenceline

I mimicked his naming of nearly nothing.
Dropping his hand,
he named grainheads
as red as the sunred
arm which assayed
their weight by the acre:
twin tea
sin tree wait
maze.
20-century-weight

Maize. Milo. Sorghum.
Each a name for the same thing
for which I had no name.

He shucked a maizehead,
opened his hand, bleeding spoors
of red kernels, rolling in palmcreases
like a Crackerjack ball-in-a-maze:
Roll the ball from beginning to end.

In the maize’s beginning
our tractor and drill sowed 
mouses and bunnies from the clods.
Hawks canceleered, censored the scenes
behind a flash of pinion and wing.
Cottontails, hares, vermin and vole
disseminated out of viscera.

Count three days
(index, middle, ring)
then fingercomb the
dirt kernel-tombs.
“Verily,” he said in seedred letters.
Tipped at his soiled index,
a maizeseed split by a tendril tail
like altricial kits spilt
from a doerabbit
harrowed by the plow. 

Naming the crop split me
a thumb from a forefinger
a row from a row
and line upon line
I call out coyote.

Seth Wieck
Seth Wieck grew up on a dryland farm in a region that receives less than twenty inches of rain per year. His father counseled him to leave agriculture, so he earned his BA in English and philosophy from West Texas A&M University. He now lives in Amarillo with his wife and three children. His stories, poetry, and essays can be found in various publications, including Narrative Magazine and Curator Magazine.

Cover image by Bart Heird.

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