THE WAY BACK WAS ALWAYS SLOWER
like those Saturday drives past farms and Walmarts,
through Coffee county or Franklin, the corn a bit greener
to the West, the soybeans nearer the ground, tumbling
like morning glories under a sky trimmed close as a hedge.
The car window would dot with little raindrops. The slap of the wipers.
I would consider who we were before we knew each other, how my body
had rebelled against being loved, how I would look over these fields
and imagine each seed like a lima bean in a jar, sprouting its one green leaf.
Also consider: the rust of the tiller, the farmer at the wheel, whether
he made his bed in the morning, whether someone else was in it when he left to begin.
The lilac dawn. The smell of the cattle rising out of the barns. Whether I would be
a farmer’s wife, straining the whey out of the curdled milk, gathering eggs,
callouses on my clumsy hands. I wondered over at my mother,
driving the car in silence, the gray sky outside the window
like a field of snow. What more did she want of these fields,
these anonymous houses with their garden plots and clotheslines.
What more did she want of the drives we took to get out
of Grandmother’s house, whether my silence was as much
of a disappointment as everything else, the antique shops
smelling of rain, the kindling left out, too wet that night to burn.
Meghan Sterling’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Rattle, Rust & Moth, SWIMM, The Night Heron Barks, Cider Press Review, Inflectionist Review, Sky Island Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Westchester Review, Pine Hills Review, Menacing Hedge, and many others. She is Associate Poetry Editor of the Maine Review, a Finalist in River Heron Review’s 2021 annual poetry contest, and winner of Sweet Literary’s 2021 annual poetry contest. Her collection These Few Seeds is out now from Terrapin Books. Sterling is Program Director for the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance and lives in Portland, Maine. Read her work at meghansterling.com.