I walk beneath a sky full of holes,
among brittle stalks in the field,
trees raining leaves like tongues of fire.
Praise in minor keys rises from the plains,
my home in wind, each face,
each eave, a new octave.
The twinkling distant farmhouse
flickers life in the night
when the ransacking bandit plunders cat food,
when the feral dog drags my hen
home to her ravenous pups,
night owls call, respond.
A wandering stream scores
the pasture in ragged hoof-print hieroglyphics.
Shadows loom in the gloaming, true trunk of pear,
dry-eyed susans, shrunken bodies of clover,
The huffing wind seals rain
beneath a crisp skin of ice
sends chickens burrowing into their deep down.
I stumble upon the altar of an ancient steel plow
left last century, in the wood where it collapsed,
returning bit by rusty bit to its beginning.
cruel mercy, unrelenting,
amen & again.
up on the old highway
near the curve that veers south
at the top of a hill
sits a farmhouse
where a widower lives
next to a graveyard
back off the road
behind a wooden gate,
a gate that swings wide
on a hinge, through which
a pasture rolls towards listing
granite markers gathered
at the end of wheel ruts
harbored beneath the oaks.
along that worn path
an ancient tree drapes weary arms
low branches spread wide,
heavy on the ground,
next to the graveyard where
a widower lives among barns & bins
chock with plows, combines,
tools to plant and harvest
each year’s crop, to husband
a small herd of cattle penned
out back, behind wire panels,
steel tube gates bought
from the guy who canvases
these parts in summer, his large
flatbed truck piled with red steel,
all sizes, peddled to farmers
because buying a gate off a guy
is easier than hauling one from town.
through his gate the farmer
drives a row-crop with a 3-point hitch
to impale round bales of clover
and prairie grass planted, mowed
raked and baled from the pasture
that fronts the graveyard with the closed
white gate out by the road,
the road that curves at the top of the hill
where an old widower makes his life
wife and kids now gone
(Olathe, Atlanta, Raleigh, the grave).
the hay is for a feedlot full
of cattle, stuck in January mud, heavy heifers,
girls he calls them, with their yearlings,
who’ve trampled the hay, shat
indiscriminately, piss brewing
a rain and snow-soup muck the cows
don’t seem to mind. the farmer hauls
another ton of hay to the lot
where the girls ruminate, circle cud
over flat wide teeth, process
of process and elimination, spoiling
their food as they ruin each bale
and the farmer heaves another
onto the growing pile of excrement and mud
in the middle of a lot behind an old farmhouse
in the dead of winter where a low white sky
hovers over fallow fields
stretches to horizon, under a gray sun,
that makes no heat.
I pass the farmhouse
where cows stand like cutouts jammed in mud,
one lone steer from last spring’s
calving stands atop the waste mountain
head and shoulders above the others,
unchallenged, still-life, as if snapshot,
as if having just arrived the moment I drive again
past the old farmhouse up on the highway,
near the pasture that fronts an old graveyard
where etched in listing tombstones
are the names of nobody I know.
A Galaxy of Silence
the song of the wood thrush
trilling hidden among the trees, falls silent
season’s last clutch
of swallows & phoebes fledges
indistinct into the blue.
spring’s last blossom falls
spent. earth leans into
its slow aft tilt, sun slipping
low off her shoulder.
goldenrod, nodding onion huff
their slow exhale.
the last monarch
unfurls her wings uplifted
as arms, flutters, disappears.
last sip before hummingbirds
wing it south.
purple harvest moon spills
lamplight down the long gravel
road, shimmering over an ocean of grain
to here where you remain
only leaving on your mind.