The Farmer’s Wife

He may as well be sitting on a piece
Of junk john-boat out on some open lake.
The field is shorn, divested of its fleece.
The hay is tedded and the rusty rake
Is resting now beside the tree-lined wall,
Next to the tedder, stilly looking on,
Like two quaint collies waiting for a call;
While there, in wagon, stacking, is my son.

While there, cat-black, looms a portentous cloud,
White-veined with light, or crackled, like a glass;
And there, my husband, donkey, that’s too proud,
Endangers himself and my son, alas.
But then again if we don’t have the hay:
We prob’ly won’t last winter anyway.

The Farmer

Oh press on honey we are almost there.
Most faithful tractor that I’ve ever owned.
Pulling a baler that pulls up the hair
Of Mother Earth which she has kindly loaned.
Which we in turn will feed to hungry kine;
And store in mow where dust shines down in slants;
And feed it out right through the wintertime.
The cows will spread it like some active ants.

I am not worried; I believe in you.
No rain will touch our sun-dried, fragrant hay.
My wife’s a wart who doesn’t have a clue.
No lightning will touch down on us today.
My son, too busy, cannot count the gap
Betwixt the lightning and the thunder’s rap.

The Farmer’s Son

I cannot think; it’s sad; I haven’t time.
The bales come quick the quicker that he goes.
My hands are creased and cut from the harsh twine.
We bounce along over the humpbacked rows.
I bounce and jerk and blist with hands quite numb;
The field like some flag striped without the stars;
My body scratched and broiled by the sun;
We war with Nature yet we love these wars.

Lo and behold I see the dark thing too,
Out of the corner of my mote-fraught eye.
I cannot look and yet I know the blue
Is flagging to the black that’s coming nigh.
As long as I’m his son: I cannot quit;
No matter if, with lightning bolt, we’re hit.


Reid McGrath is a poet living and working in the Hudson Valley.

Featured Image: “Thunderstorm over Dordrecht,” Aelbert Cuyp, (Museum: Buehrle Collection)

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2 Responses

  1. kerry rawlinson

    LOVELY! with all the “angst” poetry out there, it’s so refreshing to read a poem that actually taps into the essence of our lives: earth; cultivation; life and death.

  2. Bruce Dale Wise

    Thunderstorm Over Dordrecht, Aelbert Cuyp (1620-1691)

    The vast sky stretches high up over buildings and
    occasionally trees of moderate height on
    the far horizon. Jagged lightning holds command
    and crackles forth th’ electrical phenomenon
    that travels down sky’s thoroughfare above Dordrecht,
    the brilliant gold against the smoky-black cloud-spawn.
    Below, three windmills turn. The cows, seen in perspect,
    are calm, content; they do not overcompensate,
    react immoderately, nor jerk or act berzerk,
    to flashing lightning bolts. They simply rest sedate.
    There’s no new thing that they will come to understand;
    not much will change; there’s nothing they anticipate.


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