John Grey

 

Jack Nessen, Locals Only
Jack Nessen, “Locals Only”

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.

Pat Butler, "In the Camellia House"
Pat Butler, “In the Camellia House”

 

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,

farmhouse remains,

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’s cold.

It draws no blood.

20140513_081122
N. Henry, “Barn Tableau”

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.

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