When You Loved Me in the Cornfield

Christine Stoddard

I.
You told me that I was sweet corn
and you were chaff
because my skin was lighter,
because my hair was straighter,
because your daddy chose a white wife.

II.
I never dreamt of becoming a scarecrow
when I grew up—
whiling away the hours in the fields,
shaking the stalks
as we shook each other’s bodies.

III.
I met your mother exactly once
and wondered how
she didn’t get lost
in the snow.

IV.
When you asked me if
I would ever grow anything,
I thought you meant crops.
You meant wings.

V.
Your father said it was a miracle
that he was raising a mulatto daughter
in the state that brought Loving
to the Supreme Court.

VI.
That summer, we only
ate oysters—
yours,
mine,
and the Chesapeake’s.

VII.
Half a century ago,
we could have married
based on race,
but less than two years ago
based on sex.

VIII.
Virginia’s indigenous people
once ground oyster shells
for fertilizer.

IX.
When you asked me if
I thought you looked
more black or white,
I said, “Both.”

X.
I never asked you if
you would wear
a white dress
or a tux.

XI.
You told me that the
perfect sandy loam
is hard to find,
much like the
perfect woman.

XII.
“I don’t want to be a farmer”
was my repeated refrain.
“I don’t want to be a half-breed”
was yours.

XIII.
Was my skin too light?
Was my hair too straight?
Did I remind you of what
you didn’t have?

XIV.
Now the field is silent,
no longer heaving
with the sounds
of our desperate,
mule-like braying.

When You Loved Me in the Cornfield