Barbara Conrad “Scar Tracks” from 2000

My daddy got branded on a day in a southern summer
hot enough to make a plow mule kick, and that’s just
what happened along a dusty old road, Daddy out to fetch
the mail with my uncle marvin, his older brother.

Maybe that old mule got a fly or what just tired of them
straddling her sweaty back. Daddy seemed to remember
pulling her scruff of a tail, then not remembering much
except a soup pot of blood and mud. He was only three.

Imagine how his mamma fretted, waiting two days
for the doctor to come, then how it must have made
my daddy wince, that old codger scraping open the sour
wound in his head a like a farmer digs rotten potatoes,

sewing him up there in the kitchen
by the butter churn
and wood burning stove,
seven brothers bearing witness.

His savage scar was a railroad track, rough
as a tiger’s tongue, long as winter.
Touching it
would take me on a train I’d never know.

Life me up, Daddy, I’d beg,
girl in pink with daisy chains.

Tell me about the day the mule made meatloaf
out of your eyebrow. Lend me your memories
of pigs for pets, field turnip snacks on walks home
from school, crickets crooning you to sleep at night.

Groan out the tales about
your hound dog Loud, dead
under the tractor; father dead
at twelve; mother Christmas Eve.

Sugar rations.
Atom bombs
not rationed.
Battle scars.

Paint your flaming stories
on my heart.
Pierce this pouty princess crown
of mine.

And please Daddy, because
some day you’ll go
and I won’t know…
Plant your turnips in my daisy field.