Issue 9 – Ackmawsong




You remembered the unpaved road, narrow as a single vehicle could pass, grew patches of grasses tracked with tires that scalped it a hundred fold. At your right, trees clustered tight. Unable to decipher what kind they were except for strips of red cloth tied around their trunks and black paint scribbled on wooden boards nailed on them: “Private Property. No hunting, trapping, or fishing. Violators Persecuted by Law”, you somehow felt comforted knowing that the warning was not meant for you. You just happened to be there in that early October morning, exploring. You don’t hunt nor trap. But fishing? That would be another story to tell later.

And you continued to walk, your steps brisker than a stroll. A serious kind of walk as if you had known that there was something up ahead, something that made you heart skip in anticipation. And when your heart does these somersaults, your body responds, alert. Your legs move quickly, and your upper limbs join with the pace of your lower limbs, not just hanging on your sides but swaying in purposeful synchrony, like a marching sergeant, building heat.

Your head cocked. It seemed to know where to point your eyes on. And there, your eyes locked on it. Over the shoulders of the hill, deep golden light poured announcing the sun’s arrival. At its waist, mists floated, lifting, diffusing, thinning, not in a rush, but delicately like a reflection of a thought stealing slowly across your heart. The dawn had been still that dew hanged on everything, not as lingering moisture but separate beads on ferns and grasses. Catching light, crystalline beads threw back prism lasers to the sun, and showers of rays came through all things. You held your breath, afraid to move. Afraid that the invisible string that the universe had held them in place might snap, dissolving all into the clean sheet of morning air. Widening into a landscape, an ocean of green spread against the brown woods and a house with a red roof faced the expanse of the crops that rose high as your knees. As if God had raised the curtain of an amphitheatre presenting how the stage would look like without the casts.

You stepped on dry grasses that bent on grainy soil outlining the edge of the field. You expected crackles of brittle stalks under the soles of your sneakers, but they remained mute in the blanket of moisture that tucked them all night. Forming a foot-wide path that bordered unpaved road and the field of soybeans, dry stalks created boundary thick as dark lines on a map zoomed in a Google screen.

You stooped. Up close, fussy soybean pods in clumps and pairs bowed low, hiding their slender shapes among forest of flat round leaves. Against filtered light, transparent green skin revealed tender seeds, curling secure, like babies in mothers’ wombs. They were not yet ripe for harvest. You had the desire to pluck one pod, open it with your fingers, curious of its taste. But your gut formed a knot rejecting that thought. A warning. Molecules of pesticides camouflaged, serving as safety net for these soybeans from predators. Your hand pulled back as your stomach churned with the thought of the poison coating every crevice of these plants. A creature in contact with any part of the crop is at the mercy of the chemical’s corrosive bent. You felt something prick inside your chest.

You stood up, awed by the magnificence of the field. Its mighty shade of green like the calmest sea shelled out paradox: purity and tinge, hope and despair, life and death, roaming, and pulsing in cosmic procession thrilling to the drums of this earth.

You walked on, strolling this time, following the narrow trail of dry grasses. At your left, water lapped against rocks. A creek flowed into the opened mouth of the bay. Motorboats roared, and how huge they were between gaps of tree trunks and bushes. You wanted to stop at a clearing among firs overlooking the water. But your body declined by moving on, completing the path that you now realized was in full circle around the soybean field.

Beyond a bend stood the big house with the red roof. A front porch with white rails, above, three huge windows faced the soybean field and below, an entire glass wall. An orange tractor idled in the front lawn where tall grasses leaned on its giant tires. Some were cut and mowed forming patches here and there. Three rocking chairs sat on the porch. Behind the house, a wooden dock stretched like a narrow bridge jutting across the water from the point where Spartina grasses congregated.

You wondered. How would it feel inside that big house, rocking in that chair facing the open field, reading a book, or sitting by the dock’s lip, wadding your feet in the water, waiting for a crab to yank the piece of chicken neck at the end of the string you dipped into the creek? But the house was quiet, nothing moved, not a cast of shadow. And you saw the sign. On a red board, black letters stayed hidden behind leaves of magnolias: ‘No trespassing. Private property for sale’. Again, that tightness around the left side of your chest, the same heaviness that makes your eyes moist when sad thoughts pinched your heart: how could something so beautiful get abandoned and ignored? A distant bird screamed as though calling out the numbers printed under the sign at your attempt to tuck each digit in the basement of your memory.

The sound of your steps drowned in the skittering movements in the woods. You thought of muskrats and big lizards pining breakfast for the day. You knew that they wouldn’t have the tender soybeans no matter how sweet. Premature demise of their ancestors had taught them well. They know better. You muttered.

Walking for a long while now, twenty ounces of lemon Gatorade from the empty bottle in your hand had settled in your bladder. But your shelter was half a mile away. You eyed a bed of ferns at the foot of a spruce. It seemed to be a perfect spot. At least, your contribution to this cosmic web, you thought. If the sun painted the earth green with chlorophyll as plant food, you could add your own natural ingredient, nitrogen for the soil. You squatted behind the spruce showering roots and ferns with lemon flavored ammonia. Like morning rain you peed, as though the life of each soybean depended on it.