For the Ones Who Stay

Each fall

As parched brown leaves

Carpet the ground of the northern United States

Millions of Monarch butterflies

On the backs of hope and warmer breezes

Migrate to Mexico for the winter

 

Millions more

Born in warmth

Return to the northern trees in which their parents roosted

Trees where they have never been

 

Finding beginnings

In the things that stayed.

 

The last time my shoulders heaved with sobs

I sat in my garage

Beer in hand

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

On car CD player repeat.

 

That song is seven minutes long

And my fastest mile time

Has never come close to seven minutes

That is to say

I’ve always tried to outrun endings

 

The day that I left

I rolled the driver’s side window down into the warm Indiana air

And within seconds

Wheatfield dust found sweet refuge.

 

In my eye.

 

Because harvesting what we plant

Means tilling the ground

Means kicking up dust

Means trusting what we have grown

To sustain us.

But sometimes the tilling

Puts tears in our eyes

And momentarily

Makes it hard to see.

 

This is for those that understand

That our fertile ground

Has been planted before

And will be planted again

 

For the ones that know

No matter how bountiful one year’s crop

The soil of our souls was never made

For a single harvest.

 

How fitting that I drove through farmland

Where the ones that stay

Pray for water

In order to grow

Where the ones that stay

Fill the air

With the tilled dust of the past year’s bounty

 

But refuse to let the grace by which it grew

Be enough.

 

I remember the first time I learned about sister crops

Corn, beans, and squash

One provides structure

Another nitrogen

And another protection from the sun

 

This is for the ones that know

We can grow one thing

Without losing another

This is for learning

That roots can be anchored together

Without tangling

 

And if they do tangle

This is for learning

That does not mean one of them is a weed.

 

In the neighborhood I used to live in

They demolished a children’s hospital

Because even walls built to protect

The ones who heal

The ones who hurt

The ones who are growing

Need to come down sometimes

For our own protection.

 

This is for those

That called my demolition

Construction

Told me my chain-link fences

Were temporary.

And see-through.

 

This is for those that erect building permits

And drive stakes

In the space between

All that has tumbled down

 

For those that

Spread their arms wide

And instead of saying

Look at all of this rubble

All of this mess

Say

You know, there used to be walls right here

And now

There is nothing but sunlight

Filtering through the rising dust

 

This is for learning

That accepting protection

Is not the same as showcasing our weakness

That hardhats

And protective goggles

Mean we belong at the site

And there is work to be done

Work too precious

To knowingly put ourselves in harm’s way

 

While skyscrapers may be dreamt

By a single mind

Skyscrapers are never built

By a single pair of hands.

 

There are places in New York City

Where developers can buy the air above buildings

Purchase the space where the sun shines through

I wonder who those people are

And if they’re planning for windows

Instead of walls

I hope they are.

 

There are places in Indiana

Where drivers can roll their windows down

Inhale the space where the sun shines through

 

Across the farmland

And streaming into the back window

Pointed eastward

And away from the setting sun

 

That allowed the moon to rise.

 

Light

By a different name.

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