Two months shy of a century ago,
it’s been raining in France,
great sheets snapping like sodden flags across the farmer’s field –
And my grandfather’s father,
a child of German immigrants,
sits down in soldier’s boots, and looking at the crops with a farmer’s eye,
writes a few lines to his brother
in Barnesville, Minnesota.
He writes nothing
about the rescue of the Lost Battalion
after five days surrounded by Germans in the Argonne forest; but
he asks Alfred to tell Ma
that he got through it all right, he guessed.
He reports that the winter wheat
on this farm where they wait to ship out, was yellow, and poor.
He taps his pencil, then adds that
they’d been playing a lot of baseball,
because the Great War, the war to end all wars, was done.
He pauses, looking at the field
where he doesn’t belong, and finally asks
how the Titan is running, and whether they’ve planted, thinking
probably, of the cold black soil
drinking up the snow melt with a fierce thirst,
and the angled sun spreading like butter on the dark bread of the soil
after a long, dark, Midwestern winter,
and of his flax seeds,
thousands of tiny furled, unsent messages, tucked away in dry burlap.
He will come home
and bury them for ten days
until tendrils reach up, and up, into the sky that stretches lazily
across the great Midwestern plain –
each blue flower will live just one day.
But it’s hundreds and hundreds,
no, tens of thousands of them – that will open in wave upon wave across the field,
answering the call of the unbroken blue sky.