Land Inventory

by Janet Sunderland

The county appraiser sent a questionnaire
and a topography map, wants me to update
our family farm value, asks about changes
to acreage or productive capability of the land.

Ignore the appraiser’s flat gray map, see,
instead, the sapphire sky, white-striped
like zebras in Grandpa's National Geographic.
Airplanes flying high to Africa or China maybe.

Walk the field of milo - stacked red heads
flaming on emerald stalks. With one swift swing
of the machete, sever a sunflower’s head,
wipe sticky black resin from the blade –

The map won't show Great Simba, now rotted
to a termite's meal, won’t capture hazy afternoons
we picked gooseberries, or our clamber up
the peeling bark to ride a gray husk to India.

Legends lie hidden in the appraiser’s map—stories
held by the wind, borne by cottonwood seeds, flung
free, as we were all flung free. Memory our property.
I sign the questionnaire; affirm no changes to the land.

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