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May 2013
We all thought he would
Stay here forever, like
So many other lethargic
Sons and daughters of the slough
Who may never have learned what the mustard fields were for.
I escaped early, lucky I
Guess, but never quite let
Go of him, and another year
Gone by, like battered ships we return.

Those eyes are intense and
Hazel in the oncoming
Headlights, buzz-cut
Hair black as the ruins of Haystack Landing.
Once you’re told, you remember what the mustard fields were for.
“I’m different, I mean,” he says,
“****, even at dinner with family. I
Freak out, get paranoid, like I’m
Fighting for my life in the Sonoma hills.”

He sighs, “I know you know,
When I come back from
Where I’m going, seeing you is
What I’ll want the most, but--”
I wonder if he knows what the mustard fields were for.
“I’ll probably be real different,
Probably need a lot of help.”
Passing elevated acres of mustard, we
Pause; he says, “Gotta stop for gas.”

This soldier stands in sharpened
Contrast to this rural, liberal
Community, these Victorian
Cathedrals of a quiet isolation.
They will never tell you what the mustard fields were for.
I wonder then if something about our
Air here makes us want to reach out,
Aspire for our names and badges
Across the expanse of war and peace.

Like the murky waters of the turning basin,
History hides a silent violence.
Hatching, we find ourselves inoculated against
Human strains of moral dystrophy.
I went into the world knowing well what the mustard fields were for.
They’re still here, still growing, those
Slender, musky stalks, golden heads
Sweetly pastoral in their floral bloom,
Soft biochemical carpets in a cultivated sprawl.
I know now, I know **** well what the mustard fields were for.
Kelly O'Connor
Written by
Kelly O'Connor
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