The Hard Way

Our barefoot summer
ended at the edge
of a mowed field
in August: goldenrod stubs
like freshly sharpened pencils,
hay salted with thistle barbs
& the odd nest of baby
meadow voles orphaned
by the mower’s blade,
pink as erasers.
We learned the hard way:
one quick dash across
the stubble left holes
in our horn-tough feet.
They bled just a little,
but sprouted taproots of pain
under every step
that lasted into September,
when buses the color
of goldenrod bore us
back into waxed hallways
& the squeak of rubber.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

16 Comments


  1. but sprouted taproots of pain
    under every step
    that lasted into September,

    Handsome transition into September, predating the buses. Because for those of us learning the hard way, the sprouts start now.

    Reply

  2. Pretty amazing Dave. I get a hospital, as a waxy floored point of origin, destination too.

    Do you say “staub” up in your hills?

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  3. Thanks for the comments. I’m surprised this many people are even online on a weekend! I hate to sound too self-deprecating here, but let me just say that if this poem succeeds as well as y’all seem to think, it was not on account of any special inspiration. Just writing to occupy the time and give my mind a workout.

    Bill – No, I never heard that. Must be more of an Ozarks thing.

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  4. If I were a linguist I might say “staub” was a hill relic of older English before a vowel shift or something like that, but really, I dunno. I googles-up in storytelling in Appalachia, meaning “stab” as in to kill a person. Here I think of it as broken tree limb if a noun, or something between a poke and a stab if a verb, generally with a result of getting perforated. I guess it came here out of Kaintuck. I’ve really come to like the word as it connotes something edgier and more robust than any “stub” I knew in the city. Here, “staples” are “steeples” and I quite glad of it.

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  5. Oh and I really like the fight in the title. For a spell, after thinking about phantom root pain, I ran a nonsense headline in my head: “Apprehended Truants Get Suspended Severance”.

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  6. Bill – That’s all new information to me; thanks. I hadn’t even thought consciously about the cousinhood between stub and stab until now.

    Reply

  7. I really like this one too. The words stab as hard as the stalks, as hard as the sharpened pencils will….

    Reply

  8. Ouch! Brings back memories
    of walking barefoot over stubble.
    Very much liked the
    buses the colour of goldenrod.

    Reply

  9. Thanks, bev and Pica. I’m beginning to sort of like this poem myself now.

    Reply

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