Never thought I’d see the day when I could
let it all go, cows
in their stanchions, hay
in the mow, swallows’
cupped-mud nests clinging fast.
Empty at last
the barn sings of wind, ghosts, horses,
curses. I find my way
home from a factory at night,
my barn dark. Now? No regret,
no livestock to feed,
no manure to haul, no need
to worry, and yet
I am unnerved. I cannot
repay my debt
to this dirt.
Summer-baked, parade-ready we stand, hands
in pockets or on cameras. We talk
askance, neighbor-to-neighbor always
about the weather
and whether any of us will make that window of sunshine
to dry our mown hay, and if the least of us
will throw in the towel.
We are a ragged lineup, Midwest
plump and unafraid to show ourselves
in shorts and T-shirts. Propped up
in thick-soled sneakers along our small–town street
we are all, or will be, or have been
4-H moms and dads, 4-H
everyone gathered who has ever lived here in this
muddy little bottomland.
Seen from the outside, our tableau
looks like democracy a là Norman Rockwell, only
more cornfed. Even our sheriff’s deputy
has equal footing as she waits at the blockade.
We hold two hopes to be self-evident:
as soon as we can, to march from blazing sun
toward picnic shade and cold beer
and at next year’s parade
to find one another still standing—still here.
Author Bio: Catherine Young has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best American Essays. After working as a national park ranger, farmer, and mother, she completed her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. Her poetry appeared in Passager, Ascent, Fourth River, Reliquiae, Minding Nature, and elsewhere. Catherine’s writing and podcasts are available at http://catherineyoungwriter.weebly.com/