That girl in the album sharpened hoes
as if dead weeds could save her. That was my sister
when we were ten and seventeen. At night
she studied Greek, not even trying to resist
the tug of wings, somewhere to fly to from plains
so flat she wept. She studied maps like code.
Wherever her finger fell was magic. She grabbed
and shook me like a doll, demanded why our great-
grandparents crossed a prairie. Why
did they break down in wagons, trapped
between a dry caliche canyon and the Alps.
She stared at Army planes from the airfield,
all of them going somewhere, if only to war.
Now, she’s off again somewhere. She’s been
to Athens, reads six other tongues than Greek.
Her children left home one by one, flung wide
like Texas stars. She sold her title to the farm
and lives in town. After each trip,
she swears she’ll let blue skies be empty.
Her garden sprawls while she’s away,
but she won’t let me touch it, won’t hire
a yardman to save her weeds from scorn.
For days when she returns she rakes the leaves
and burns them, heaping them high.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 8 Number 9, on page 44
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