13 Ways of Looking at a Rice Field

after Wallace Stevens

By CL Bledsoe

1. The levees are low walls. I stepped
over, but I still see mud
in my tracks all these years later.

2. Dragonflies hover over the feast,
like the helicopter Uncle Wheelbarrow stole,
set down in a rice field drunk
and hurting.

3. It’s not water; it’s the sweat
of generations from which grows
a momentary cessation of the banker’s hostility.

4. A soft smell something like sweet
straw and mud,
a mother’s hair.

5. Driving to college on a lonely highway,
levees race to catch up.

6. Blackbirds laugh from power lines
by the road as we trudge into the mud,
half-a-dozen spills and a shovel
on our shoulders.

7. Up on the high dirt road, somebody’s
truck eases to a stop to wait until we’re done.

8. My father took my fiancé on a tour of the rice
fields and told her, “Didn’t know
you were marrying into landed gentry,
did you?”

9. The wind pushes flames across
the stubbled dirt. I watch
from the road, yearning for something
I can’t name.

10. Weeds grow inside an old farmhouse.
A rusted bedframe just visible
through the window hole.

11. When mom got too sick to stay home,
they put her in a nursing home built where
we used to farm.

12. Dad would wade out with a shoulder
full of spills and a shovel in a hundred degree
heat, patch the levees that needed it and cut
others, then back at the truck, down
a Budweiser like it was water.

13. Mosquitoes nudge ears, nose, mouth,
the wind’s reminder: yes, there is life in us,
if only we can get it out.

Stuff My Stupid Heart Likes by CL Bledsoe (co-author of https://medium.com/@howtoeven and The Wild Word: https://medium.com/search?q=not%20another%20tv%20dad)

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