Your dad was newly retired and recovering
from prostate surgery, your mom between
poetry projects and grandchild babysitting.
You, the proprietor of an Oregon organic
chicken farm, have not even an ounce of fat
on your hardworking body.
Our lives are the woof and warp of one piece
of cloth. Twice a year, Paul and I jet into
your world, a nonstop beeline from Chicago
to Portland, our threads of differing colors
meeting at the loom’s intersections.
For a few days I shovel feed to your chickens,
collect eggs, water the smelly cows and goats.
I note your coyness with third husband, your
confident toss of curls at our questions, the set
of your smile with a drive-up customer. Once
you take time out from farming to drive us
by a scenic back road to the coast, and we savor
the misty surround of forested mountains while
discussing your improving balance sheet and
architect plans for renovation of the moldering
farmhouse. You don’t ask about your sisters,
can’t answer queries about your grown sons.
We squeeze in dinner with your son David and
his girl between their classes, before their exams.
Elyse swishes her flowered skirt and smiles at him
from beneath dark lashes. He catches her eye.
News about his brother Sam, living in New York,
will have to wait for my phone call to him.
I notice how Liam strides like his mother, purses
lips like his brothers, plays too raucously with
the toy ships in a vat of water at the Children‘s
Museum. Taking down your Christmas tree, I
wonder when you last spent simple talk-time
with any of your sons.
Six days later we’re delivered back to the airport
in your dusty new truck, our suitcases sandwiched
between coolers filled with frozen chickens for
delivery to high-end Portland restaurants wanting
your free range, firm-flesh, organically raised meat.
first published in Illinois State Poetry Society
©2012 Bonnie Manion