235. A Gathering

Hatless, for the wind
Would take his hat,
Kerchief on his face, Tom
Gunned the clanking tractor,
Almost kicking it, as if
With spurs:
Hurry. Hurry.

Out of sight, still
Help was on the way.
Jim Tate and his boys,
They’d be scrambling on their
Tractors, from the north.
From south rode Mr. Guthrie,
Jones, Reese, Dean, from
Up the bumpy road.
No one from the east;
From west, came Tom.
They’d each list the piece
Lay closest to him, plowing
Ridges to catch wind.
Harlan could claim, honest,
The work was done–though
He’d not done the work–
Must not lose that check, lose
His home–
Hurry, hurry.

Tom had reached his section,
Was already listing,
Leaning in the gust.
Anxious, he kept scanning
The northwest–
Storm not laid in heavy, yet,
But soon. Lost in
Rattling noise, he tried
To steer it straight,
Dragged the blades down one row,
Charged the next….

Whipped by swirling,
Blinded, couldn’t hear.
After countless rows,
Dust caked his collar.
Tom began to think,
Damn. Need a watch.
Row had turned to row,
Hours muddled, vision
Nil–he seemed alone.
But they all should meet
Somewhere in center:
Tom believed the others, they
Would come.
He plowed on.
In the end, Tom
Heard before he saw them,
Engines, grinding, whining,
Welcome din.
Squinting, eyes
Scraped raw–
A roar–then
From wild dust, one
Tractor breaking through!
“Guthrie! Mr. Guthrie!
That you?” Tom waved,
Then felt foolish,
Dropped his hand.

Like beasts circling
At their meeting glen,
Wheezing tractors slowed
As they drove in.
Riders, buffeted.
Their coats were torn.
Full-blown storm now, sure–
A vicious lash.
Tractors lurched.
“Hey”–old
Mr. Guthrie’s shout–
“Yonder’s the house!”

They headed out.

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