Detasseling Corn

Early on a summer morning, the world gone cool and sparkling, the school bus would drop us at the edge of a field, where we would emerge, weighed down with sleep, water jugs and lunch coolers, just to be swallowed up by a great green ocean of head-high seed corn—wave on wave of stalks standing ready for our soft, young hands to uncork the feathery tassels from the tops of each plant. All day long we’d tramp those leafy corridors, shirts damp with morning dew and necks reddened by afternoon sun, facilitating cross-pollination for three-and-a-half bucks an hour, our fourteen-year-old imaginations flush with the possibilities made real by a season’s worth of earnings. Soon enough there would be drivers’ licenses, social lives and after-school jobs, but for the time being there were muddy sneakers, bouts of corn rash and the occasional aerial attack, tassel spears raining down on unsuspecting heads followed by retaliation and a discharge of laughter, as we soldiered on toward the end of our Midwestern childhoods, the future burning holes in our pockets and the landscape revealing little as to what lay beyond.

Michael Hill’s poems have been featured in Midwestern Gothic, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Dunes Review, Concho River Review, Third Wednesday and other fine publications. While he currently makes his home in Colorado, he grew up in Wisconsin and has also lived in Texas and Washington.