"One boy you can get some work out of, Two boys more. Three boys, none." ~~Dad's rule of thumb
Working through sunsweat and neckburn, We unrolled a fence against rabbits, Against animal life conniving and hungry, Against raccoons and clever black hands. Against the vindictive eating and shitting of birds, We worked with our father all summer. We were impaling our vegetable kingdom On the graves of the grass we had buried. With chipped rototiller and rust-red tools We bit at what had remained unbroken, Churned arrowheads up, tore taproot to loam-- Dad's spat tobacco as brown as his coffee. With raw shoulders turned to the wheel, With shovels like diamonds scraping Layer after layer of untrammeled dirt, We called forth the spirit of seed With spray hose and angry commandment. With sky our indifferent accomplice, And time our old friend and enslaver, Our trowels dibbled like stitchwork Tearing the mother's side just enough. Our bleeding was part of the bargain, Knee and knuckle and elbow, Bright splinters left burning like auras. Late, late in the day, our sun-dragged Boots kicked off into brambles, Sunhats tossed down by pond-blackness, The mud medicinal, efficient, Covered us to knees, and our gossip Was smiles creased behind wheat grass. Frogs boomed cool and obtrusive, Echoes of wood and of shadow Where peep toads woke to their work As night fell on our dreams and dominion. On pillows as wide as those fields Our dreams saw tomorrow's tomorrow, Saw sunflower and carrot and rhubarb Burst plaintively furiously perfect Behind chicken-wire straight as a razor, The field churning all colors in sunlight, The dirt lifting life in a triumph: The bones of our enemies bleaching, Squalid tomatoes impossibly red, Staked pea-pods that rattled out victory. Our old buckets were full of new freshness, The trembling of too-much brightness-- Burnt cheeks were hitting cool linens, Our faces delighted and keen.