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Summer Hammond

Iowa Blues, and Greens

the cornfields.

McCausland, Iowa. Population 300.

 

Row upon row of green, shimmery stalks, leaves turning liquid in the breeze.

The cornfields are my sea.

Mom says, wistful, “I wanted land, gardens. I wanted my kids to run barefoot, and climb trees.”

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She didn't want a double-wide mobile home trailer, even if it is the yellow of lemon pie. 

 

She wanted an old farmhouse with lace curtains drifting and billowing, parting to reveal glimpses of the sun, a wild orange, melting into our sea.

Every September, we pile into the camper, and drive across the Mississippi, all the way to Bishop Hill, Illinois. Jordbruksdagarna, Agricultural Days, with singing and dancing and sorghum making, woven brooms and needle in the haystack, kettle corn popping, porkchops sizzling, and homemade stew laded into Styrofoam cups from a steaming, giant black pot. It’s here, in the 19th century Swedish community, still preserved, that Mom has found her fairy tale.

A two-story farmhouse converted into a shop. As tradition dictates, we ascend the charming creaking stairs to our rooms. The two bedrooms across from each other she's picked out for Sister and I. Wood floors, braided rugs, girlish homestead beds dressed in hand-stitched Swedish weathervane quilts. We do not see the price tags. We see our house, our rooms. What might have been.

Mom's face gets soft and dreamy. We all sink down on a bed. It's the way she squeezes us to her. It’s the way she tells us she loves us. Can we buy it? Can we buy it right now? I want to purchase, whatever the cost – not this house – this moment with her. I could live here forever.  

Like any sea, the cornfields have power. They can swallow you whole. You can hide inside them. You can disappear.

All summer, I swim, running the rows in bare feet, the hot, dry earth mounding between my toes. I lay on my back and float, on a long day-dream, the Iowa kind, woven of sky and corn-silk.

The way the tassels whisper to me.

They are my seashell.

When I listen to them, I close my eyes, try to hear the whole world.

Summer Hammond grew up in rural east Iowa on a gravel lane in the cornfield sea. She was raised one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and home-schooled through high school. Summer earned her college degree online while long-haul trucking with her husband, Aly. And in 2019, she earned her MFA in Fiction from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Haunted Waters Press, Broad River Review, and The Texas Review. She was a finalist for both the 2021 Rash Award in Fiction, and the 2021 Missouri Review Miller Audio Prize. Summer currently lives in Wilmington by the sea.

About the Artist