Reasons — by Dawne Leiker

Without fail, each August, I stop to wonder
why my great grandparents stayed here,
Where ruts crack beneath the
crisps of weeds
And only bindweed dares to thrive.
Tough, stern-faced, they battled the earth
to coax seeds into grains,
while black “Dust Bowl” blizzards choked
hot curses from their mouths.

They must have had their reasons.
Maybe the charlatans, strange ways,
or ill fit of the world outside
corralled them back to the familiar.
Where roots and worms tangle
in living earth.
Where locusts raise metallic songs
to a cloudless ocean of sky.
Where sunset’s red glow
exhales their timeless breath.

Today the August breeze cools my skin.
The sun is not a searing enemy.
I search the ground for cracks and find
velvety grass and globs of spongy earth.
I kneel on the green space where I see
ground uncracked and breathing a promise.

I imagine their fallen bones,
buried in the Lone Star graveyard,
my ancestors’ dust blended with ancient dirt.
Would they feel my hands
digging in fragrant soil?
Feel the weight of me
tethered where they settled?

For one brief summer, drought
is never spoken.
This land seems friendly,
a place to be touched.
But I know well enough,
ditches shining with puddles will not last.
Soon after barren clouds tease the horizon

I’ll see cracks checker through
the drying weeds, where sky meets earth
on a straight-ruled line.

Today, though. Today, I press mud, fat
against the roots of basil and mint.
Touch the promise of
impatiens’ purple blooms.
Listen for the distant thunder.
Listen, like my forbearers, for the rustle
of crops on the vast rippling plains.
Cling to the hope of rain-bearing clouds.
Unpack the reasons to leave,
bury them deep beneath the busted sod.

Dawne Leiker is a former journalist, now working in academia. Her news/feature stories have appeared in The Hays Daily News, Lawrence Journal World, and several online publications. Her poetry and short stories have garnered awards in regional and statewide literary competitions. Ms. Leiker’s fiction and poetry often are influenced by her past news story interviews, as she develops and re-imagines fictional characters and situations loosely based on local individuals and events.

April Editor Roy Beckemeyer‘s latest book is Mouth Brimming Over (2019, Blue Cedar Press).

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