Family farm

A sharp November wind blew sheets of snow
across the yard and pressed the laden clouds
against the barren fields. He stopped the truck
between the house and barn to wait for word
of what was next. The wife, the one who called,
came out–an afghan wrapped around her head
and shoulders, more for comfort than for warmth.
She nodded toward the barn.
“I ring the bell
for breakfast, but he won’t come. I’m scared to go.”
She looked at him and said, “The auction’s at noon.”

“I’m sure he’s fine,” he lied. “He’s likely just
up getting things together. Tell you what:
I’ll go and see what’s keeping him, OK?
You go on back in. Get some coffee hot.”

She turned, then stopped and looked at him again.
“You know, they can take the farm, I’ll get along.
But not that man–”

“I know. I’ll let him know.
It’s not you. What he’s going through is hard.”

The barn was dark, so he stood and waited while his
eyes opened. Scents of hay and stock combined
with paint, and he relaxed a bit. “You here?”
He laughed. “This stuff ain’t looked as good as this
in a ‘coon’s age.” He waited. “The wife says chow
is on the table.” Silence. “Time to call it quits.”
He leaned against a post and put his hand
on leather. “I remember when your dad
decided to pass this bridle on to you.
It sure is pretty, but it never made
your pony any faster. You were so proud,
I thought you’d bust. The good old days, eh man?”
He moved toward the hayloft, wondering but
not worried about his friend. Again, he spoke
to the shadows. “Hey, I heard you sold your calves.
That’s smart. Them bankers wouldn’t know which end
to milk, eh? You and me are getting too old
for farming anyway.”

…………………………….. He stopped and sighed.
He closed his eyes against it, turned and looked
to see if she had seen. The doors hung wide
and gray light pierced the musky tomb, but she
had gone. From there he could see beyond the house,
where lines of headstones bore a single name.
He shut the doors and turned to the boots–so worn,
so laden with mud and manure it made him proud–
and watched them swing in the sharp November wind.

Click here to hear the poem read aloud.

“Family farm” won the 1994 Rosebud Award and appeared in Rosebud, Vol 1 #2.