Brother Juxtaposition

by T.W. Strawhouse

Empty field with a mountain in the distance

Hello all,

I know
this email will probably be as hard to read as it was to write2

A disturbed field, the dirt upturned by plow
left to be, sun-bleached, and its nitrogen depleted is an open invitation
for ragweed, Lespedeza, and thorn-skinned scatters of invasive Bradford pears3

– Using the pre-European settlement period as a reference point
of change aids in understanding the nature of high integrity,
unfragmented, stable, functioning natural communities.4

It was at Aunt Carol’s funeral that I realized I can’t continue ignoring these feelings and pretending
like I’m okay.

More than an invitation, it’s a calling, a sequence imperative, a field
without diversity, only growing those plants that hitched
on the fur of a migrant, or mixed with the stool of a sparrow3

– Disturbance plays a major role in shaping natural communities.
It determines structure, composition
– and year-to-year dynamics.4

I was disowned at 17 I was already holding
so many secrets for our family                                              
 I don’t think anyone ever cared2

It’s the field in the back forty, unnaturally unburned, the grazing field for the emaciated
cows which pick through poisonous cocklebur selecting
that which won’t kill, but tastes like shit3

– Bison, attracted to newly burned areas, consumed grasses and
forbs (fuel for fire), thereby influencing subsequent fire
patterns in a mutually reinforcing feedback loop.4

forced to lie under threats by dad And yes
I was disowned “One of us is leaving

the family tonight, it’s either him or me,” mom said

There was a field in eastern Kansas that I walked through for work years
back and abandoned for decades.  The barb wire fence kept it
apart and the chicory was robin’s egg blue, and the Queen Anne’s Lace was white
and umbelled3

–   None of our remnant natural communities…passed
undiminished through the last 150 years or more of modern
human land use.4

I will have no inheritance but will wrestle my whole life
with the debt I was left by our family.  I couldn’t even get dad to fill out the FAFSA for me.

The field, abandoned and unused, had an isolated pond unconnected
to any stream or swale, tucked at the bottom of the topography, it collected
all the rain, thatch, and debris wash, filling up slowly with eroded Earth3

– All of our high quality prairies are re-shaped by a century of
summer haying and domestic livestock use…caused
substantial change – usually isolation, fragmentation, and
loss of native species richness.4

I think I turned out incredibly well given my circumstances.2

The disturbed and abandoned field starts its progression with invasives
– noxious weeds. So competitive it takes many years for those plants
to be displaced by the forbs and grasses of succession3

– Sometimes simply restoring the range of variability of a fundamental
process may be sufficient.4

1                  The poem is based on a technique called poetic juxtaposition, see works cited.

2                  The italicized text is from an email sent from my brother to my family (my mother, my step-dad (former uncle), my older sister, my younger sister, and my wife) on March 20, 2022, three days before my 42nd birthday.

3                  The middle stanza of each three-stanza segment are my words.

4              The last stanza, which is right justified, of each three-stanza segment is and excerpt from the book “The Terrestrial Natural Communities of Missouri.”

Works Cited

Nelson, Paul. “The Terrestrial Natural Communities of Missouri.” Jefferson City, Mo: Missouri Dept. of Conservation, 2005.

Thomas, Rhianna. “Poetic Juxtaposition, a Method for Connecting Data, Theory, and Every Day Texts.” Qualitative Inquiry, vol. 27, no. 5, June 2021, pp. 626–636, doi:10.1177/1077800420948080.

Category: Featured, Poetry, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU Student