Mowing

Lambsquarter, kochia and all their lanky friends
Rise up on the prairie inside our weathered fences
Like lush jungle or high rise apartments. It’s all scale.
Chickens cannot venture through, nor human feet.

Feral cats will brave the dive for rabbits
Or for our fat domestic cat with whom they share
Loose feline ties—unlikely friends. In games
Of hide and seek, they stand on hind legs, peer
Into the waving green, bat paws, prowl for mice
Like shadows of each other every night.

But I am singing for glorious weeds.
Their wordless philosophy filling space
Like old stories or fantasies fill the mind.
The time comes they must be mowed
To save ourselves from mosquitos who lie
In wait, shirtless, hanging out of windows,
Threatening passersby who raise their ire in clouds
With each thoughtful stop to squint at sky.

When the farmer’s sixteen-year-old son—
His country mullet curling from ball cap,
Its bleach blond ends tickling the breeze—
Drops off their Japanese riding mower,
Its wide girth and two arms bent with readiness,
I feel the thrill of machines. The thrill of men
Who make and lust for them, strange Galateas.

It takes awhile to remember the order—
Release the brake, then start? Or turn the key
And then release the brake. The latter brings a roar.
I slip on bruising headphones. Plastic, black, silent.
No music in these but my own voice amplified
With happy tuneless songs for weeds and speed.

I drop the blade, ride the thing in random patterns,
Pass back the opposite way against earlier grains
Of lain-down whiskers. Apologize to wildflowers.
Look up. Laugh at chickens who scramble to the coop
Like… well, like chickens, like tiny, fully-feathered
Velociraptors terrorizing 80s movies, only sillier.

I steer into shapes of fields like a vicious ship.
Weeds lie down under me with little resistance
Releasing swarms of homeless young grasshoppers
In waves. I worry for the garden, wonder if I should
Spare some weeds to lure the hoppers away
From mustard greens, arugula, tasty canopies
Where whole families of toads hunt and stare.

Before long, I’m done mowing the odd triangular plot
Between the henhouse and the hotwire
Bordering the pasture. Over my shoulder,
Chickens joyously dash into the newly opened space
To do their own mowing. My mind, too, is a range.

I park the machine, stretch and scan. Plan a walk
Through areas no longer lost. I am sweating,
Covered in fine grit and blown-back clippings
Spit by careless wind. When Dorell comes home
From the house he is framing, he kisses my neck,
Declares, “You smell like me.” Licks his lips, “Salt.”
And with that word and work, earth trying
To escape us, that is what we are.

2015

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