Unsettling the Farm

Over everything drift
clouds of stars, rivers of stars.
Its Halloween profile sharp
in a sky of indigo, the pale orange
crescent moon wanes above a forested
ridgeline cut deep and left high
by the Elkhorn. Barking, yapping,
DuAnne and Pea-Wit agitate the night
around the house, as if down the hill
other dogs are coursing the long
creek-hugging arms of fertile bottomland
under its slab of ground fog.
Awake, fretting again about his sheep,
the farmer gets up and stares into the dark.

At daylight, after coffee and cigarettes,
he trucks himself and the help
to plant-beds to pull up and bundle
green finger-thick tobacco
for setting in the nine harrowed acres.
As the Dodge bounces along
in dried ruts, the farmer
spots a collie, a ratty stray
running hell-bent, spooked
by the pickup clanking. So
the farmer brakes, gets out
and whistles, wishing
he had the rifle with him,
watching the collie disappear
where the field turns to nettles.
Then the workday begins, heats up
and goes on into sunset, the crew
pulling plants, setting plants,
the farmer brooding—tobacco, money,
rain, mold. Work done, his supper
down too fast, the farmer drops
off into sleep and might dream about
his fragile crop. In fog,
pursued, his sheep run

:: Dan Howell, Lost Country (1993)

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