Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1
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Nights with Almanzo, Days

A strong presence of swallows.
Leeks, roots trimmed, peeled white, pile in a bin.
May, we slide the garlic scape from its stem.
Always the Escher-knot of geese, reluctant, seething;
Now they move: the one in back opened its wings.
Zaps from the bug killer—July’s regular pulse.
One poult dead. The others walk over it. Stand there. Eat.
We watch the weather. Skies abruptly blue, then bruise.
I cannot kill it outright; its legs work, beak opens/closes.
Leave it. A motion with the hands. He tosses; checks his palms.
Death, quick, turns to compost. Harvest, slaughter’s other word.
Ewe’s breath huffs at my neck; I milk her swollen teat for the lamb.
Rain is in the wind.

At first it was all story. Gee and Haw.
Learning the tools; their names and purposes. The work.
My mother reading every word.
And then we drove inside, across: Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa.
Nebraska’s red fields— Nebraska all day.
Zoning out in the backseat. Heat lightning, the hood denting from hail.
Wearying highway. To the left and right, ahead, behind: horizons.
(It’s years since my face lifted to a raining sky.)
Look— butterfly wings (yellow, violet) smashed in the car grill.
Does the road never end? One man on a combine a hundred miles ago.
Expecting a violent storm tonight. The sow will farrow.
Rain comes. Comes harder. Goes.

Fence threads a square out to the road, along, then back into woods.
A further precaution. The wire ticks. A track through grass.
Read the signs—
Murder in the tufts and bits. Feet left in a corner, neatly.
Eggs overfill the basket. Piglets race downhill and up.
Read the signs.
Buckwheat darkened the summer honey. The sow smacks her lips, sipping from the hose.
Overalls stiffen with dollops of dung. Lavender by the post. Mint.
Yes, rain. In time.  end

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