The Bean Walkers
Farm kids walked half-mile aisles of soybeans.
Velvet leaves wavered in sultry July breeze.
One side dark green, one side light green.
Trained eyes scrutinized four rows for subtle
shades that marked wayward growth.
Armed with sharp hooks, they carved out
rabble with a stab and slice and left it to die:
thistles, cockleburs, pigweed, mustard. Up
the rows and back, hurrying to finish first,
to sit down, share ice water, begin again.
Few words between brothers or sisters:
sharp commands, some complaints. Plowed
dirt clods crumbled under grimy shoes
as tedium turned up aching muscles, sunburn.
But it was here, far from beginning or end,
that imagination took deep breaths of green
air. While plodding up rows, minds meandered
down forest paths filled with odd characters
who lived worlds apart from rooted order.
A bean field was a magical place for farm kids
who sold their souls for stories that grew
wild as weeds and carried them to far lands,
past wire fences, gravel roads, endless days.
At the field’s far end, they count four rows
and begin again.
Originally published in Taproot Literary Review, July 2006