Mark Owen Martin
and Sarah Krouse

Music: Dandelions
By Mark Owen Martin


By Sarah Krouse

Inspiration piece

To kill a dandelion, you have to poison it. To tap into its taproot, you have to weaken the smaller roots that shoot out from the main one.

The day Kyle took his shirts, his shoes, his jeans, his underwear, his toothbrush, his work bag, his laptop, his towel, I found one of his old history textbooks. There was a bookmark in the chapter about Italy and its wine.

My uncle makes wine: red, white and dandelion. He picks the dandelions, the orange and grey flowers that are weeds to everyone else, collecting their severed yellow orange heads in an old paint tub, refrigerating them until he has enough for 10 gallons of wine.

Dandelions overtook his yard. The patch started near the house in his backyard, by the slate steps he’d hobble down slowly to get to his wine cellar and over years of picking them, dropping petals and seeds, they spread down the hillside. It was better to have them in his yard where he knew no one would spray them with pesticide.

Before his field of dandelions grew, my mother and aunt would go to school yards and parks looking for full patches that didn’t look like they had been sprayed. I’d help them pick them when I was younger, skipping to and from the basket.

Kyle left the day after we fought about window bars. I wouldn’t live with him and so, with student loans and a low-paying job, he signed a lease in a place where one needs bars on the windows. He did not have them. He could not buy them. His landlord would not install them, and I would not stay with him.

I told him would not stay over at nights because I’d be vulnerable, because someone could break in, because he would not be able to protect me.
He could not protect his mother either. She had died a year earlier from cancer.

My father, who sent me to our backyard each spring with a spray can of weed-be-gone to kill our dandelions, loves my uncle’s amber wine. My uncle goes to the basement after dinner, brings up a bottle and pours a glass for himself, for my father, for my sister. My mother and don’t like the smell. But my father breathes it in.
He smells it, swirls it, sips it slowly. Sips and sips and sips until it is gone, then drives, drives, drives us home.
He gave me the keys this Christmas for the first time ever and watched the speedometer, my feet on the brake and pedal, my eyes on the road as his glazed over.
He was asleep by the time I pulled into the garage.

Kyle and I made love after we fought about bars, slept and in the morning folded his clothes and put them in a bag. He was gone when I came back from work.
Gone to the house without bars.

After gathering the flowers, we’d break the head away from its naked hollow stalk. The bitter white fluid would seep onto my hands.
“Is it bleeding?” I asked as a child, looking down at the bucket of golden heads.

I saw the bucket of floating, soaking dandelion heads as I made tea for myself in my apartment. I remembered the smell of the boiling mixture of apricots, lemons, raisins and petals that my uncle would strain and then mix with yeast.
With all of its sweet ingredients, the wine should smell good.

Sitting in my bed, next to my own windows and their bars, I looked to the corner where Kyle’s clothes used to sit in a pile. Breathing in the chamomile in my tea and looking at the yellow water, I think of the wine bottles in my uncle’s basement, the dinners and Christmases when we will pull them out.
Kyle should be there.

I remember the smell of my father’s glass of wine, the stem-less dandelion heads in a basket.


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