Maize of Color

3 min
60 votes
In competition

Join the author, Tony Martello on mini reading adventures that can be read in under 5 minutes. Explore interesting humans, wild nature, and all the interactions between. He is a Californian and  [+]

Image of Summer 2020

During the time of the ancient world in this land, the color was a gift of light granted to us to determine the vitality of plants, animals, and the weather. What our eyes would not see our ears would hear by listening to sound and our skin would feel the radiant heat of the sun:


            Is there glistening yellow, blues, reds, and shiny black inside the green fibrous husk?

            Can you hear the wrestle of the wind against the grass?

            Can you feel the chill of the breath from the north?

            When does the warm blanket lie upon us from the south?


In the first world, natives of this land would strip back layer upon layer of thick green husk until-


They discovered the kernels that appeared to float with an iridescence of earthy red and terracotta matte, a brilliant blue like the edge of their earth near the sea, warm browns like the dirt under their feet, and a shiny black like their daughter’s long lustrous hair.


As hundreds and hundreds of years passed and even thousands, the lighter people from across the sea to the east came ashore. They brought beans and grasses, and fat pigs, and a large yellow kernel that grew bigger than any native maize of its time. For another hundred years or so they grew more and more of this hefty yellow corn in rows and rows until no iridescence was found in a stripped shuck of corn.


Along with them, they brought strong black men and women with wild hair and dried figs to eat on the ships that sailed to our land. The figs they carried had skins thicker than ours and enduring like the oak trees on our plains. They made the black men and women work the rows of maize and other stems, stalks, and vines until they fell to the ground only to get back up again-day in and day out. Meanwhile, the corn got bigger and yellower until it filled the belly of our land. Pigs got bigger and the white man got fatter.


After some time, a big war broke out where the white and black men were fighting each other with hissing and snapping machines that sounded like the pop in a wildfire. They fought for several years until the black man stopped working in the fields of yellow corn. Meanwhile, we had a harder time finding land to live on and hunt on as the white man pushed us away from our heartland. We settled to the north where the breath was colder and on the edges of the earth where we found shellfish and salmon.


For some time after the black man left the fields, we heard that the yellow corn began to rot and smell like a dirty swamp with no running rain. During the springtime, we left one of our terracotta brave men behind with the white man because he hurt his leg and could not sit on a horse. He lived with the farmer and saw the problem of rot and loss of yield to the corn. He remembered a medicine man who told him, “when the color of kernels turns all white, our people will die.”


That night he had a vision of his ancestors holding up a human-sized ear of maize with the most illustrious colors emanating from the husk. The tribal leaders danced around a fire passing the huge ear of corn from one member to the next, each one taking a different color kernel and roasting it on the fire. They had a large feast-feeding on the multicolored maize that fed their nations.



The next day, the lame native woke from his powerful dream and had the white farmer take him to the base of the mountains where a few multicolored plants remained. He searched for seeds that spoke of his ancestry as far back as the Pawnee and the Cherokee of the indigenous nations that illuminated the colors of their cloaks, spears, and skies.

He chanted, “take these stalks, pull them from the ground, and restore the maize of color by sprinkling the kernels with care among your sick yellow rows and you will heal the crop.

The white farmer heeded his advice, thanked him, and collected the seeds. The farmer built a small wheeled chariot and attached it to his horses so the disabled native could plant them in designated rows to amplify the colors of his ancestors.

Several months later, new kernels transformed the corrupt yellow kernels into a brilliance of blue, black glass, purple hue, and deep red terracotta matte-announcing stability for the crop and acceptance of his people in the spirit of fall.



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Image of Shade Ayeni
Shade Ayeni · ago
This is such a poetic read! I like how you touched on historical events without making your story too historical. There was a nice balance of beauty and facts.
Image of PAT LE FOLL
Thank you Tony for this very poetic story! I gave you 5. (P. Le Foll)
Image of Tony Martello
Tony Martello · ago
thank you :)
Image of Tony Martello
Tony Martello · ago
Yes, good point. Because it is fiction it represents more than surface level...and is not a historical record. Think metaphor and symbolism...
Image of MarkWilliams
MarkWilliams · ago
HI Tony, I liked this as myth, and it's very well written and concise. The only thing I'm wondering about is the war between the blacks and whites, which I think would coincide with the American Civil War, mostly a war between whites and whites. The other parts of the story pretty much go along with the way things happened in what is now the United States, except for that, so I wonder if that's where you step into myth and away from fictionalizing the chronology of this land, the Native Americans, the Whites, and the African Americans brought here against their will. I love that the iridescent maize returns and wins out in the end. We are colorful people, and it's great to celebrate that and uphold it.

And thanks a lot for your comments on my submission.

Image of Michel Armand Demai
Michel Armand Demai · ago
Nice text. I live in the Netherland but I have family near San Francisco California. I'm a big fan of Robby Roberson and in a Western film I always take side for the Indians :)
Image of Monica Mastrantonio
Monica Mastrantonio · ago
Really enjoyed it Tony - and thanks for voting to my poem Indepen-dance
Image of Sunny Lancaster
Sunny Lancaster · ago
This is the best corn-themed story I've read all day
Image of Tony Martello
Tony Martello · ago
Yeah, a little better than cornflakes, haw?
Image of Sunny Lancaster
Sunny Lancaster · ago
A lottle better, yuppers
Image of A. Siegelster
A. Siegelster · ago
What an interesting story! Very visual, I like it. What inspired it?
Image of Tony Martello
Tony Martello · ago
I grew up in Hawaii surfing with the Hawaiians and learned to appreciate the culture and when I moved to California, I began to learn about the native Americans as well and am intrigued with the culture here in America. I have a met a few that live in my area and enjoy the relationships. Thank you for the votes and support :)
Image of Pete Forbes
Pete Forbes · ago
For real brah! Nice work!
Image of Tony Martello
Tony Martello · ago
Thanks, Chapman
Image of Houda Belabd
Houda Belabd · ago
This is more than just beautiful !
My support, of course !

Image of Tony Martello
Tony Martello · ago
thank you, Houda. I appreciate your support!