I awake. In darkness the scent
of swathed hay drifts through open windows.
A bird has yet to herald dawn. Even so,
the transient sweet air pulls me
out of night. Sense and thought collide.
In the small nursing home down the road
Mother too most likely lies awake.
Her windows are shut, sounds and smells
trapped inside. Sleep has escaped her
for days, but not dreams. They crook
their fingers, dare her to follow.
If I knew someone with money and a car,
she muttered yesterday, her face set hard,
I’d get the hell out of here, as if
it were the Dirty Thirties and she,
stuck in dusty old Kansas. I picture
a lit cigarette sitting beside her
in a heavy glass ashtray, her eyes
squinting through a coil of smoke.
The fragrance of raked alfalfa
and something more, something dark
and fresh, circles me. It belongs to
rope swings, bicycles, clothes on the line,
Mother handing me a laundry basket
before she turns back to frying chicken.
It belongs to the pop-pop of the old
John Deere 70, to young hired men,
to Dad showing how to work a clutch.
As windows glimmer like ghosts
I stay where I am, knowing the day
will break like any other. The carrier
will deliver the paper, the first
bird will soon call out, and then
I will rise, not minding too much
this early start. It is, after all, summer
and fledglings sing for the first time
and sail from tree to tree, determined
to answer to instinct, to fly on their own.
Jackie Magnuson Ash grew up on a farm in central Kansas, later to return to raise two children and help her husband manage the farm business. She holds an English degree from Emporia State University and is a member of Prairie Poets and Writers, a Salina group which self-published its work in PlainSpoken: Chosen Lives, Chosen Words.