THE LAST OF A TRIBE
You’ve been yoked to twenty acres
for fifty years,
twelve hours a day,
seven days a week,
ten years of school
but a lifetime of schooling,
making the rocky soil pay.
In the saddle of the tractor
or down in your dirt,
through drought and blizzard,
floods and cancers
on the back of your hand,
you’ve carved out a living
in the northern New Hampshire wilderness.
Your wife’s dead.
Your kids work in Boston.
You’re the last generation
to plant and harvest,
enlist the hardship in your cause.
When you go, it all goes.
The land provides.
The land buries you.
That’s not a coincidence.
OFF THE LAND
With Spring finally taking hold,
we walk across a field,
silent but for intermittent birdsong,
hair and jacket collars
ruffled gingerly by wind.
For every burst of pink round-lobed hepatica,
there’s a screed of pebbles,
the ultimate confession of the land around us –
sorry but this is all our soil has to offer.
So it’s no surprise to come upon
an old stone wall and, beyond it,
hopes and dreams, a hundred years later
and clearly looking their age.
In the midst of such abandonment,
I recall my own family’s farming roots
how all it takes is one woman with too many
babies for the land to feed,
one man sloth lazy,
and that connection is lost forever.
I run my hands along
a rusty, half-buried tractor blade.
It draws no blood.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Big Muddy and Sanskrit with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Owen Wister Review and Louisiana Literature.