Iowa Writes

BARBARA ROBINETTE MOSS
from Change Me into Zeus’s Daughter


Mother had waited all morning for a letter from Dad, a letter with money for food. When, once again, no letter or money arrived, she went out to the toolshed and brought in the corn and bean seeds for next year’s garden. The seeds had been coated with pesticides to keep bugs from eating them during the winter. Poison. I watched Mother split the dusty sealed brown bags with a kitchen knife and empty the contents into bowls, the seeds making sweet music as they tapped the glass: “ting, ting, ting.” She ran her hands through the dry seeds, lifting them to her nose. Did they smell like poison? She rubbed a fat white bean between her fingers and touched her fingers to her tongue, then spit into the sink, rinsed her mouth with cold water and spit into the sink again. She stood staring out the window above the sink, her hands limp in the bowl of seeds. She stood this way for ten minutes or more, staring out the window.

Mother had waited all morning for a letter from Dad, a letter with money for food. When, once again, no letter or money arrived, she went out to the toolshed and brought in the corn and bean seeds for next year’s garden. The seeds had been coated with pesticides to keep bugs from eating them during the winter. Poison. I watched Mother split the dusty sealed brown bags with a kitchen knife and empty the contents into bowls, the seeds making sweet music as they tapped the glass: “ting, ting, ting.” She ran her hands through the dry seeds, lifting them to her nose. Did they smell like poison? She rubbed a fat white bean between her fingers and touched her fingers to her tongue, then spit into the sink, rinsed her mouth with cold water and spit into the sink again. She stood staring out the window above the sink, her hands limp in the bowl of seeds. She stood this way for ten minutes or more, staring out the window.

Then, as if released from a spell, she opened the cabinet and got out two colanders. She poured the dry seeds into them: corn in one, beans in the other, and ran water over and over them. She rubbed each tiny seed with her fingers and wiped the cool water on her forehead and the back of her neck. Her dress was already damp under the sleeves from the afternoon heat.

“Those seeds are poison, you know. Poison. If we eat them, we’ll die,” Alice whispered. She was eleven and knew these things. I tapped my bare feet against the kitchen chair and thought about this, deciding I would eat them anyway. I was so hungry and certain that no poison could kill me. I could just tell myself not to die and I wouldn’t. I was that strong.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


BARBARA ROBINETTE MOSS

Barbara Robinette Moss received an MFA from Drake University and now lives in Iowa City and New York City. Her most recent book is Fierce: A Memoir. Change Me into Zeus’s Daughter was the 2006 selection of Linn (County) Area Reads. It is available from Prairie Lights bookstore.

Barbara Robinette Moss's website

Prairie Lights Bookstore

This page was first displayed
on February 18, 2007

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