312. On The Tractor

It was so long
Since they’d put in seed.
Riah, on the tractor,
Tom and Jack there,
Waving, yelling, “Turn!”
Plowing on the contour, banking
With the lay of land,
Not against it,
Not across it,
Curving as the earth did
To hold soil,
Cradle rain.

Satisfied at last
That they knew how,
Jack jumped in his truck
And left for town.
With his awkward, bossing
Bluster gone,
They felt hushed.
Riah rolled by,
Finished out a section,
Pulled the tractor up,
And cut the engine.
She swung lightly down–
Tom tossed keys.
She too drove off,
Heading home for James.

I can finish half
By dark, thought Tom.
Plowing this way
Was a humbling chore,
Taxing, slow.
You read off the field,
Its shape and body,
How to turn your wheel.
In the lulls, Tom
Daydreamed of the Rex–
Its heedless cowboys
With their prancing ponies,
Always being spurred on
At full speed.
He smiled:
Can’t charge cockeyed
Like they do.

Squinting at the sky,
He lost that smile.
Spiting him,
The brassy day, white-hot,
Scarce tint of blue.

On the rumbling, clanking
Tractor, Tom came
Close to eyeshot of
The road. There he
Spied some men
Beside their truck–
Recognized them,
From their hats and stance.
They’d stopped by the field
En route to town, maybe
Urged on by Jack Hance,
Giving the once-over
To his farm.

He refused to nod
Or seem to notice:
I’ll stick to my business,
Thomas vowed: just between
My farm and me.
Still they leaned
In silence, on the fence.
He watched
As their eyes ran up
And down, without
Comment, all his curious
Rows. Were they
Stumped? Amused,
As by a riddle?

Shook their heads,
Got in their truck,
And drove.

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