Workaday burdens – loading the manure spreader,

burying dead calves whose mothers suffered

from mastitis – quietly starving in their stalls

before anyone realized – one old man, widowed,

beat down, too much grief, too much work he can’t

stop doing – clogged seeder, bad brakes on the pick-up,

baler throwing out uneven rounds, wheat prices

in the toilet, drought, herbicide- resistant weeds,

lodged barley, winds smashing hay barns flat.


Church on Sunday, hymns he doesn’t sing – his wife had

the voice, soprano sweet and pure and clear

as spring’s first rain – he can still hear it, all these years

after the cancer took her. So he sits in the pew,

silent, listening – he doesn’t believe

in anything, anymore, but she won’t leave him –


She says some days the clouds are bellied with rain,

some days dawn clear as the first morning of the world.

The sweet grass grows green and greener in the field,

tall through the bones of deer, coyote, antelope,

over the wheel ruts, above long ago forgotten graves

of the dead. The past is the past.


Sermon over, he rises, nods to his neighbors,

makes his way outside. The sun’s left, taking

shadows with it – frost tonight, too early.

Back home, he checks his horses, drops feed

for the cows. Barn spider’s web torn and rippling

in cold wind, worn lace curtain, his lost cat a skeleton

somewhere, tangled in the rattle grass. Bones

are keys to something, but the lock’s rusted shut.


In the root cellar, peas float, soft green planets

in their canning jars, peaches crescent moons. He can’t

bring himself to eat them. Sleet clatters down,

shards of glass. Far above him he hears their voices,

wild geese flying home.