Saturday, April 09, 2005

farming in a lilac shirt

The farmers are all in their fields, pale-faced for now, jacketed, but smiling as they turn circles, dirt blowing, gulls swooping down low upon them. It is officially spring on the prairie.

When we first moved back to Illinois after living in Germany for 4 years, I thought I might miss the Alps, the rocky Braunic that engulfed most of the picture window in our living room. But I did not. We came back in June, to fields fresh with tiny sprouts of corn and soybeans, the smell of earth and summer stillness, the tiny flickers of fireflys dotting the night sky. We awoke to the singing of birds and it was good to be home.

One day I was driving into town and Mollie, about four then, was sitting in the passenger side of the front seat, eye level with the bottom of the car window. "Look Mommy," she exclaimed, "Look at the giant spider with his hairy green arms." She was looking at the rows of corn, each stock about seven inches tall, and it did look like a large mutant spider. Spring in doesn't get any better than this!

Farming in a Lilac Shirt
by Leo Dangel in Home from the Field

I opened the Sears catalog.
It was hard to decide--dress shirts
were all white the last time
I bought one for Emma's funeral.
I picked out a color called plum
but when the shirt arrived,
it seemed more the color of lilacs.
Still, it was beautiful.
No one I knew had a shirt like this.

After chores on Sunday, I dressed
for church. Suddenly the shirt
seemed to be a sissy color
and I held it up near the window.
In the sun the lilac looked more lilac,
more lovely, but could a man
wear a shirt that color? Someone
might say, "That's quite the shirt."
I wore the old shirt to church.

And every Saturday night I thought,
Tomorrow I'll wear the shirt.
Such a sad terrible waste--to spend
good money on a shirt, a shirt
I even liked, and then not wear it.
I wore the shirt once, on a cold day,
and kept my coat buttoned.

In spring I began wearing the shirt
for everyday, when I was sure
no one would stop by. I wore the shirt
when I milked the cows and in the field
when I planted oats--it fit perfectly.
As I steered the John Deer,
I looked over my shoulder and saw
lilac against a blue sky
filled with white seagulls
following the tractor, and not once
did I wipe my nose on my sleeve.


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