On Finding a Barrel of Agent Orange in a Dusty Corner of the Barn
The barrel wants out of the shadows,
to be dusted and shined,
to remember sunlight and freedom,
his role as sturdy brush control,
Dow Chemical says so. Then,
the barrel wants to join his brothers
for a joy ride in mighty C-123, and float
11,000 pounds over 300 acres in just four minutes.
After that, the barrel wants to skip the controversy,
mingle freely again, shed of friend Dioxin.
The barrel wants to be a star not a shame, to
ride in a backpack for everyday sprays.
And then, the barrel wants to study history―
how decades years later, 6,000 square miles of
Vietnam stand leafless in testament.
The barrel wants to know about the soldiers,
the farmers and their grandchildren.
And then some science, the barrel wants to
learn about metabolism, perhaps an evening class,
how mimicking a hormone can grow a plant to death.
Then the barrel will be ready, ready
to dance with the devil
his orange stripe spinning.
This chill December morning
into the kitchen strides my young friend
swinging a starting-to-shred
pale yellow bag from the Dollar Store.
She usually wears her yearning for a family
like a mourning shawl, but today,
smiling, tender with awe
she withdraws a scarf from the ruined bag
with a nail-bit hand.
This is it.
This will do the trick.
I gather myself, then pour mint tea,
slide a cup towards her, ask
This is Our Lady’s maternity sash.
“Our Lady of Guadalupe?”
Yes. She knows just when to come.
“The one who appeared to Juan Diego?
Yes. She loves me.
I press on, pragmatic.
“Where did you find it?”
The Pass it On Store,
but it is from Her.
She inhales it like a newborn.
Fecund, dark as earth, the sash is
soft woven wool.
tied in a square bow, the Nahua way,
ready for a baby to rise
beneath its drape.
In slow motion, she unties it―
threads it around her slim waist,
and with a sure hand,
knots the bow again.
Belief blazes in her eyes.
The kitchen grows warm―
the mint has faded, now
a perfume of roses swells,
to rouse me from my doubts.
Lucy Griffith is the author of We Make a Tiny Herd (Main Street Rag, 2019), winner of the Wrangler Prize for Poetry as well as the Willa Literary Award for Poetry. In collaboration with wildlife photographer Kenneth Butler, a collection of poems about birds, Wingbeat Atlas is forthcoming from FlowerSong Press. Recipient of Bread Loaf’s Returning Contributor Scholarship in Poetry, she lives on a ranch in Texas.