Crooked Furrow

 

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

My father swerves the team
to miss the quail’s nest
hidden in the furrow
she rises up beating her wings
her cries fill all the world
of sky and cloud echoing her call…

and so he passes
the caring farmer with his crooked furrow
saluting life the warm round eggs
hidden in the spring grass
the quail rising and falling
pulled by invisible heartstrings.
~Dorothy Hewitt  “Quail’s Nest”

 

I remember my father driving a stake
where the killdeer nest held 6 speckled eggs,
and the mother would run off crying,
flapping and appearing wounded
to lure him away from her precious brood.

He would drive the plow around those nests,
marking their spot for the season,
respecting their presence,
preserving their future,
without anyone telling him
he should or he must
because his heart told him
it was the right thing to do.

thank you to Joel DeWaard for giving me permission to use his recent photos from the Lynden International Plowing Match that takes place just down the road apiece.

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

An Intricate Dusk

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Black birds slice their evening patterns—
long curves in the sky. Everything
is drawing down into shade.
But the dark, which is at first so simple
is not simple. Away from the farmhouse
with its slits of yellow, the monochrome
develops like a print in the chemical bath.

The unbroken velvet swims
with complications so subtle that
seeing and hearing must take their time
to know. The shadow purples,
the dusk intricate with crickets. The sky
infested with pricks of light.
My whole body an ear, an eye.
~Luci Shaw “A Simple Dark”

 

Let it come, as it will, and don’t   
be afraid. God does not leave us   
comfortless, so let evening come.
~Jane Kenyon from “Let Evening Come”

Wandering the evening farm,
I feel the darkness,
more than see or hear
the settling of birdsong,
the rise of coyote calls,
the horizon’s firelight,
the slowing of my pulse,
and the deepening of my breaths.

I let it come, this most intricate dusk.

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All These Gone Years

 

photo by Josh Scholten

photo by Josh Scholten

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That long-ago morning at Ruth’s farm
when I hid in the wisteria
and watched hummingbirds. I thought
the ruby or gold that gleamed on their throats
was the honeyed blood of flowers.
They would stick their piercing beaks
into a crown of petals until their heads
disappeared. The blossoms blurred into wings,
and the breathing I heard
was the thin, moving stems of wisteria.
That night, my face pressed against the window,
I looked out into the dark
where the moon drowned in the willows
by the pond. My heart, bloodstone,
turned. That long night, the farm,
those jeweled birds, all these gone years.
The horses standing quiet and huge
in the moon-crossing blackness.
~Joseph Stroud “First Song”

 

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sunset92horses

Moving to Higher Ground

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…the freshly plowed fields
steam in the night like lakes.
The smell of the earth floods over the roads.
The field mice are moving their nests
to the higher ground of fence rows,
the old among them crying out to the owls
to take them all. The paths in the grass
are loud with the squeak of their carts.
They keep their lanterns covered.
~Ted Kooser “Spring Plowing”

 

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One Day One Year

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They know so much more now about
the heart we are told but the world
still seems to come one at a time
one day one year one season and here
it is spring once more with its birds
nesting in the holes in the walls
its morning finding the first time
its light pretending not to move
always beginning as it goes
~W.S.Merwin “To This May”

 

Each morning is a fresh try at life,
a new chance to get things right
if all our yesterdays are broken.
So I drink in the golden light of dawn,
take a deep breath of cool air
and dive in head first,
hoping I just might
stay afloat today.

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How Could I Explain Anything

photo by Josh Scholten

photo by Josh Scholten

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The moon was like a full cup tonight,
too heavy, and sank in the mist
soon after dark, leaving for light

faint stars and the silver leaves
of milkweed beside the road,
gleaming before my car.

Yet I like driving at night
in summer and in Vermont:
the brown road through the mist

of mountain-dark, among farms
so quiet, and the roadside willows
opening out where I saw

the cows. Always a shock
to remember them there, those
great breathings close in the dark.

I stopped, and took my flashlight
to the pasture fence. They turned
to me where they lay, sad

and beautiful faces in the dark,
and I counted them – forty
near and far in the pasture,

turning to me, sad and beautiful
like girls very long ago
who were innocent, and sad

because they were innocent,
and beautiful because they were
sad. I switched off my light.

But I did not want to go,
not yet, nor knew what to do
if I should stay, for how

in that great darkness could I explain
anything, anything at all.
I stood by the fence. And then

very gently it began to rain.
~Hayden Carruth “The Cows at Night”

All my life I’ve lived near cows,
sitting on a bony Guernsey back
while my father leaned in close to a warm flank
to rhythmically coax milk into a metal bucket.
I’d teach a tail-switching calf to drink from a pail
by leading its mouth, sucking my fingers,
down to the milky froth.

There were always cows out back,
or in the woods,
or across the road,
or on the road,
or following the winding path
or eventually in the freezer,
their great heads bobbing and curious,
ears waggling, tails swiping,
their sand paper tongues
licking clean each moist nostril.

So much is simpler for a cow~
a meadow of dewy grass, and full udders
awaiting the relief of the calf or the milker’s hands.
Maybe this is why I ruminate on life
chewing my cud on what was and is, just
waiting for the next thing to happen.

above the souterrain

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Happy Hills of Hay

barnboy

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Through all the pleasant meadow-side
The grass grew shoulder-high,
Till the shining scythes went far and wide
And cut it down to dry.

Those green and sweetly smelling crops
They led the waggons home;
And they piled them here in mountain tops
For mountaineers to roam.

Here is Mount Clear, Mount Rusty-Nail,
Mount Eagle and Mount High;–
The mice that in these mountains dwell,
No happier are than I!

Oh, what a joy to clamber there,
Oh, what a place for play,
With the sweet, the dim, the dusty air,
The happy hills of hay!
~Robert Louis Stevenson “Hay Loft Poem”

barnboy5

 barnboy4
The Old Hay-mow’s the place to play
Fer boys, when it’s a rainy day!
I good-‘eal ruther be up there
Than down in town, er anywhere!When I play in our stable-loft,
The good old hay’s so dry an’ soft,
An’ feels so fine, an’ smells so sweet,
I ‘most ferget to go an’ eat.An’ one time wunst I _did_ ferget
To go ‘tel dinner was all et,–
An’ they had short-cake–an’–Bud he
Hogged up the piece Ma saved fer me!

Nen I won’t let him play no more
In our hay-mow where I keep store
An’ got hen-eggs to sell,–an’ shoo
The cackle-un old hen out, too!

An’ nen, when Aunty she was here
A-visitun from Rensselaer,
An’ bringed my little cousin,–_he_
Can come up there an’ play with me.

But, after while–when Bud he bets
‘At I can’t turn no summersetts,–
I let him come up, ef he can
Ac’ ha’f-way like a gentleman!
~James Whitcomb Riley “The Old Hay-Mow Poem”

barnboy2

barnboy3