I, Butternut
Karen E. Kachra

The farmer's wife, she with the rough, onion-stink hands, tucked me into the silty earth. For days upon days the wet sank in, quenching my needs. I grew strong coiled in upon myself. Not yet. Not yet. Not yet... Burst I! -Down toward the quiet, hard-packed earth my long nervy toes shimmied. --Up through the clay and grit, tips stretched to sip from a new, lighter world. Where, through tender skin, sunlight warmed my blood. All I wanted was to hold forth. For I'd formed the quaint notion I'd break in two from the impulses pulling me opposite-wise. Slugs tickled me. Noses sniffed and paws swiped. A child's boot stomped me and for a time I struggled sideways. Gradually, the Voice spoke through me. You will endure. Tall I grew, until I shaded picnics for the child's child. The farmer's wife was satisfied; she prayed and stroked my furrowed skin in the last months of her dying.

I am old now, too, yet wide and full of life. The horizon of dark fields has long since been cut up and paved over. Around me sit brick houses trimmed by showy shrubs. I am closest to the sky. Wind sets my limbs loose; I have never refused to dance with her. And I still enjoy the itch of my hundred thousand buds springing free. Best, oh best, is the season of leafing. Born anew! Joy bursts me and I weep flesh-covered seed. Clans of squirrels have run my fruits to far corners and surely some will have taken their rightful place in the soil. Grown, already, to trees of steady girth? I call out some nights, let my breath ride the wind, though no sound returns.

Of late a soft shadow has crept up my base. Call it my widowhood, in honour of the farmer's wife. When she spoke that word, I understood that something inside her had died away. But my sapling fears are long since quieted. 'Tis only that I begin, now, the long preparation to shed what has endured. Not yet. Not yet... So beats the pulse of life. Once a bright seed, I am become a home. Birds still sing me awake each morn.

Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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