Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2022  Vol. 21  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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The Harvest
in Bradford, Pennsylvania

The sun sinks into itself, deep gold.
Sinking with it, the whole valley—
far hill of gravestones and hedgerows,
houses, paved walks, streetlights, streets.

Out late in late autumn to walk the hills
and blue ridges of shale and thin soil,
I’ve just now come in from the garden.
Sun turns the windows pale amber,

and there’s sun flare in the ridged veins
of my hands as I scrub this yam, scouring
this last of the harvest to an earth-colored shine.
No dirt on the root now, none

in the shallow eyes, none in the nick my shovel
gave it. And now more than the root comes
to rest in my hand, the whole
earth of it rising with

hemlock, black cherry, nurse logs, dense sprays
of arrowy fern, and just where earth meets air,
the clean smell of oil oozing up
on its own—all this

I let rest in my hand, the sun going down blood-red
on what’s left of this oil boom town,
its roustabout and rowdy energy,
its swell of profit and plunder.

Out walking earlier, I heard a deep woods bird,
full-throated, a veery, its doubled notes
descending in eerie harmony
as I walked in the slippage

of light beneath the hinged shadows of trees—
able suddenly to feel these lovely woods
scraped down to a final stump,
the hills gone raw in rain light,

blackened rivers, eroded fields, and god knows
what animals, birds, one species an hour
vanishing. It’s crazy, isn’t it, using the present
tense in a poem, as if

to pretend that what has happened once, just once,
is still unfolding, everlasting.
Ten lines from now, very soon,
this poem will end,

and I won’t know why, my endangered reader,
nor will you. One moment, I’m scrubbing a yam
to bake for supper; in the next,
I see the earth

become a breath for nothing—earth redacted, then erased.
I’m left staring at the root in my hand.
And the page you’re reading now—
it’s blank from here.  

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