Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Knoxville, 1979

Jeannine Hall Gailey
From Prairie Schooner, Vol. 85, No. 1 (Spring 2011)

It is late spring, I am on my knees
pulling peanuts out of the red dirt.
I shake the thin fibrous stalks,
like spider webs, and when I put them
in my mouth they taste like metal.
I like the scrape of them against my teeth.

The hum of the lawn mower
grows louder in the afternoon.
My father puts me on his lap
and lets me drive it. Sometimes
when my parents aren’t watching
I eat the grass too, like I am a horse
or lawn mower. The grass
tastes green and snaps like onion.

We retreat from the rain
that soaks the clay ground at sundown.
We boil the peanuts and rhubarb.
The steam fills the kitchen
with tart, salt scents.

Those peanuts, with their frayed roots
holding loosely to the hostile soil
that yields rust, rust,
with threads so close to breaking.