Category: Farm



The day breathed in
and the day breathed out

After lunch my father took a nap
– the horses had to rest

By supper time they were fed
fed and brushed and thanked

And then the tractors came
– and tractors do not nap

Not content with that small theft
they soon grew lights and stole the dark

He fed them gas, they pulled the plow

But not once, one to the other
did they ever speak of love



If a train leaves Moose Jaw
heading west at the speed of first memory

Engine, cars, and caboose
zebraing by behind a snowfence
smoke billowing back over its shoulder

And another leaves, traveling east
from my writing of it now

When will they meet
at the small town of Courval
and your reading of this page



Already old when I was young
revered as I would hope to be when old

Two brothers married to
two sisters of my father’s father

Great aunts
always as they’ve always been
busily bustling round the house

while the uncles somehow stay
both present and out of the way

Little china cups in work-hard hands
black coffee and home-brew
sipping the day away



Sunsets are long in these latitudes
and filled with color

The color of sunlight refracting
through soil and seed and dreams

picked up by west winds
and held in suspension
along with prayers
for a good harvest

What it might pay off
and what it might pay
a little something
down on

A little rain brings them
back to earth again



Forty below outside
not much warmer
on the inside

A hundred little Herefords
dropping and stepping
where it freezes
where it drops

The calves are
four feet closer
to the roof
by April

After the thaw
sitting on the steel seat
of the little orange Allis
with the front end loader

Driving in hard
and pulling

in one nostril
in the other



When it’s over 90
in July alfalfa gets dry
and blows into the knotter
and the knots won’t stay tied
So you ride on the bouncing back
where each ke-chunk of the plunger
blows chaff in your eye as you search for
loose ends of twine that you finally find
and tie into a new know, with love, or not

Then you

pile them in piles of five
to keep the wet weather at bay
and you pile them any which way
or you pile them with love and pride
pile them right like Frank Lloyd Wright

Hurried by a wind blowing in from Alaska
You handle that same bale again in the fall
tossing it up on the wagon, kneeing it with
bloody knees through thistle-torn jeans, or
an overhand flip with a three-tined fork and
the grace and precision of a pole vault champ

Fourth time you see that bale
you unload that wagon and make a stack
while chaff turns your collar to sandpaper
and you can do it, so when you stand back
you can see every bale fits without a crack

Fifth time you see that bale
it’s winter and maybe forty below
prying frozen cubes out of that stack
where the cattle are waiting, with steam
rising from hot breath and fresh manure
an dyou carefully cut each Ariandne thread
so not even Theseus could follow it back
through their labyrinth of seven stomachs

Next time you see it is in late spring
when four feet of crap in the calf shed has
melted to the bottom and you’re in and out
with the front end loader and the ammonia
clearing a whole winter from your sinuses

And then off to the fields to spread it out and
complete the circle, trying to stay up wind
and as old Bob used to say, “keeping your
mouth open to keep your face clean”

All that to feed your family, and the world
all that with love, or not