Artifact: September 1963 by Carla Panciera
My mother holds me on her hip in a cornfield. Though I can’t see her feet, she must be standing on stubble, or between the rows of stubble where the earth will be dry. She looks away from the camera. This is the moment when she will try to get me to see my father. My mother’s voice against my face. My father who will be driving the one-row chopper felling corn, his seat far above the truck that follows beside him. He will look down to make sure whoever is driving the truck stays level with him so that the corn falls into the bed. My mother is not pointing. Nights, I have been told, when my father finished milking, he lay down beside me on the living room rug and we listened to Benny Goodman records. I kicked my feet. He called this dancing. Well, my mother would have said. So long as you have her, I’m going to bed. But we might not have paid attention. Nights, she told me, when I woke, my father got up to give my bottle to me. Heating it was the only time he turned on the stove. But in this picture, daylight. My mother in long shorts with piping down the front, a sleeveless, button-down shirt, the kind I can’t resist buying even now when I stumble upon one in a consignment store. Her hair is dark, short. I am wearing a white dress, white socks, patent leather shoes. My mother the town girl bringing her farm baby for a ride on the corn chopper. My hair is also dark. No curls yet. My hand is opened across my mother’s shoulder. The knob of my mother’s shoulder beneath my palm. She will no doubt be wondering how it is I love my father as much as I do. She will already be thinking this. Did she love him then? Love him still? Is it love that made her carry his baby out to him, to stand in a place she never imagined standing? I’m sure I did ride that day, the chopper idling as my father swung down and lifted me from my mother’s arms. He would have gotten my dress dirty. I would not have wanted to leave him. I remember those fields for all the harvests after that one, the stubble, the dry stalks’ susurrations, the gopher holes along the now exposed stone walls, the world with both my parents in it.
Carla Panciera has published two collections of poetry: One of the Cimalores (Cider Press) and No Day, No Dusk, No Love (Bordighera). Her short story collection, Bewildered, received AWP’s 2013 Grace Paley Short Fiction Award.