My daughter, six, passes over
the freakish Indian corn, the misshapen
pumpkins lolling in the carpark
at the farmers’ market. She wants
moon-round, the ripe for carving,
though the blade will answer to me,
following her directions toward spookiness.
She hefts her choice
in textbook perfect hands,
hugs it to her like a tiny sister,
as I rummage for payment.
Giving a fiver to the woman
my hand meets two
stumps, one bearing
a thumb, a lithe thumb
which, even as it volunteers
a vestige of normality, is
monstrous, amplifies the smooth
otherwise inarguable finality
of the farmer’s arms.
She has been carven, at least
in the way a wayward log might be
sized to fit a hearth’s narrow cause,
or some beast, sacrificed—
the thumb, like Ishmael, alone escaped
or left there to rub in, over the years,
the hatefulness. I think
of those hands falling like small cobs
in an Asian field somewhere, she
pressing the stems of her arms
to her belly to save at least
her blood, its lavish rouge
by the man’s neckerchief, sweatsoaking.
Her face today is crinkly, pleasant, as old perhaps
as mine. While I filed for CO in ‘72, she
did the staggering run up to the killing fields.
She calculates, explores for change,
wrists stirring her apron pocket,
thick spoons in a cauldron.
I know where Piper’s eyes look
and dread explaining, then realize
even if I knew whatever atrocity
was truth, I need not tell it.
She’s unable to imagine
anything but accident or sad nature,
horror limited to the small witches soon
at our door, “scary,” and gross-out
masks the drugstore flaunts.
Little news. No history.
She is fallow to “truth.”
The woman levers out three
ones, hugging them
as she hugged her arms back then
and – hands them is not right –
offers me the bills.
At home tonight she will know
she’ll never know
as she stirs her children’s hair
how soft and light it feels
to her husband’s fingers
combing through it.
She will stroke with skin over bone
his face and perhaps remember
her nails against his back,
how he felt
. . . Whether bearing it in hands or heart,
my daughter and I bring this harvest home.