Farm Poem #19

The drive shaft shears,
Marvelous explosion,
Hollow steel torn twain,
Sharding in all directions,

And up on the tractor
I’ve just enough presence
To duck and cover,
Throwing off the lever

While the twisted metal,
Barely slowing,
Slaps, beating itself dead
Like a fish at the bottom of a boat.

Silly, trembling hands—
How would you have protected me?
The steel speaks with conviction,
Its mouth a jagged sneer.

I’m attentive, then,
When an hour later,
The parts manager laughs
And says, “I see your problem!”

But actually seems to see little,
Seems to hear little,
Country radio in the background,
Eyes scrolling the computer screen,

Quoting sixteen hundred dollars
With practiced indifference
Before I point out the correct part:
Sixty four bucks.

So what? So what?
Pushing the mirrored doors,
Why do I wish to speak like
Flying steel, bright and gleaming,

Clear as the light of death?
Why do I seek my
Reflection in the leaden
Eyes of a stranger,

Clapping trembling hands to my head,
Not in defense, or disbelief,
But to contain the joy, unbidden,
Certain to spring forth?

Farm Poem #18

Then the honeybees arrive,
Three thousand
Lost on a sugar nut branch,
Thin air, thick.

Woven with wings,
A ball bound to itself,
Globular, pendulous,
Swayed by the wind,

A living drip
That won’t drop.

When the beekeeper comes,
Barehanded, bareheaded,
He sweep-scoops them
Into the open top of the hive,

A frame-filled box, where,
Flowing,
They pour themselves
Across golden hexagons,

Disappearing,
Honeycomb, home.

But look!
At the entrance,
Four drones emerge,
Abdomens raised, throb-wiggling,

Wafting pheromones
Into the invisible sky,
To where the last of the swarm,
Glazed like honey in the bark,

Too delicate for gathering,
Has been left behind.

Scent. Signal.
Ah, to take good
Care of one another,
To whisper,

“Here. This way,”
When someone is
Lost.
Silently. Entirely silent!

First one, then another,
The last of the bees wing homeward.

Farm Poem #17

The wind that starts from nowhere,
The same that bends the pasture,
Is the whispering voice of my lover;

The hollering voice of the cowherd,
Call and response to the cattle,
Is my lover’s quickened pulse;

The breath of sweet pollen,
Exhaled from May orchard grass,
Is the same as my lover’s breath;

The black hose, mistaken for
A black snake in blue grass
Is only my lover’s arm, roped over me in sleep;

The gapped boards of the barn door,
Imperfect beneath a Saturday sky,
Is my lover smiling;

The fox, darting only to turn,
Staring, ears tufted like rose buds,
Has the same ears as my listening lover;

The fireflies, flickering beneath bats,
With tree frogs trilling,
Are my lover’s eyes, observing.

Farm Poem #16

Portrait of the Farmer with a Young Frog

E. E. Cummings
Pronounced spring
Mud-luscious,
Puddle-wonderful,
And reading this at age fifteen,
I nearly fell from my wooden desk—
November at Virginia’s oldest,
Coldest high school, tepid
Radiator tinking industrial notes,
And the classroom smelling of Milton,
A sesquicentennial of chalk dust.

I had been born from that same spring,
Feral on my grandparents’ farm,
Vernal marsh spread below
The slowly sinking cowshed—
Knew that paradise plain,
Oozing warm muck
Between bare toes,
Squish-splashy,
Springtime in full slime,
Dripping with juice,
A sopping sponge of everything slick;

Knew the half-formed creatures that
Squiggle-fled
My shadow’s shadow,
Liquid mud cloud-
Cupped in hoof-prints,
Burrowing into clay wombs,
From which—if I squatted
Perfectly still, perfectly silent—
Two eyes like periscopes
Would emerge at last,
Seeing-not-seeing me;

Sun-blind, plunging hands
Into the marsh,
I scooped soil, roots,
Clods of marl,
Filtering through fingertips,
Slippery slitherers
Squipping free,
Squeezing nothing but
Earth, so black,
—Stratified, saturated—
Dyed with death;

No, not death.
Something else;
Mint and mallow
And lush tussocks of sedge,
Bunched arpeggios,
Supple stepping stones;
Cattails kneeling in
Thin water,
Ripe with spurtive larvae;
Fluid mirrors
Reflecting;

Deeper, knee-deep,
Pants rolled and schluck-schlucking,
Blindly mucking,
Probing for firmness beneath;
Marvelous filth, calf-clinging,
Coated in wondrous, wholesome stench,
Each step a gassy, belching burp,
Closer to the pond’s edge,
Property of snapping turtles,
Hoary with moss,
Carrying the moist world on their backs;

Puddle-wonderful! An inch below the surface,
Thousands of wriggling red worms,
Bright as blood,
Thin as the finest filament of unwound yarn,
Eyelash-long, writhing medusae,
Spasmodic snakes swaying,
Feasting on floating, microscopic scum.
Microscopic to us!
Scum to us!
Their monstrous mouths gulp,
The water awash in food, alive;

All alive!
Mud-glorious metamorphosis
Of the wing-gilled salamander,
Crayfish husking its carapace,
Tadpoles trading tails for legs;
Wood ducklings tumbling from
Sycamore knot nests,
Flat-footed swampers;
Goslings pipping
From the egg,
Trapped, until the instant they’re not;

School of mud;
Classroom of mud;
Teacher of mud;
Art of mud;
Language of mud;
Geometry of mud;
Chemistry of mud;
Osmosis of mud;
Student of mud;
Childhood of mud,
Observed close!

What lovely nonsense, aprilmay,
When Cummings splashed words,
Leap-plunging two-footed,
Eager to sink
Who knows how deep—
But certain,
Each spring,
That dark winter
Melts,
Muck-licious,
Making us.

Farm Poem #15

The master craftsman shot his
Netflix sizzle reel
In my barn last month;

The brewmaster pitched me on
Economic leverage
In downtown New Carrolton;

The master chef led a group of
Inchoate consumers
Past my market stand;

The pit master praised
His barbecue sauce,
Insisting I taste his tang;

And the master gardener paused,
Looking askance when I posited:
“No one ever says ‘farm master’”,

To which she replied,
(Too quickly, too eagerly, I felt)
“I’ll be the first to start.”

I shook my head.
“That will be, I’d wager,
A lonely compost hill upon which to die.

Though on the bright side,” I added,
“You wouldn’t have far to go.”
She stared meekly at this, nonplussed,

Implying I have yet to master
Gardening jokes. Or much at all,
So far as I can tell—

Yet I see the grass silently
Bandaging the soil;
The ewe plucking honeysuckle shoots,

Succulent, nourishing;
The hive shuddering
Joyfully at the locust bloom.

What a practice, to lose myself
To each day,
An apprentice on my own farm.

How serene not to know,
To be a master of none, and,
At each dew-soaked dawn, of nothing.