Why did you leave?
Everyone asks, when I show pictures
of where I grew up: the lush green pastures,
the fat, hearty bovine, rows and rows and rows
of corn and alfalfa planted behind them.
How do I explain that the fields and the cows
need so much, to exist and to thrive – so when I see
that deep, healthy green in the pictures from home,
I also see the brown in between. The frozen
earth of winter, the way it thawed into spring –
reluctantly – muddy and thick: a wet carcass of the farm,
relentlessly heaved into coming back to life each year.
And I see my father paying the price
of one more successful season.
With his body, with his time,
he paid the price of the farm.
Over and over and over again. He planted,
he harvested, he planted, he harvested and I
shared custody of him with the seasons. I
stayed up at night to watch for his truck, I
struggled against sleep to see him trek
up the driveway, so that I
might see my dad that day.
And when the planes flew overhead
I dreamt of a city life; with hard, concrete ground,
no dirt to till, no cows to milk.
Where my father clocked in at nine,
out at five. And was always home for dinner.
Thea Engst grew up on the dairy farm her father owned in upstate New York. She currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts where she bartends for a living. Thea’s nonfiction book Drink Like a Bartender was published in 2017 by Adams Media.