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Life, Writing & Photography 
...a Collection of Personal Discoveries
Copyright © by Greg German, 2008


 
Poetry: The Last Day of Harvest
 
Harvest


 
The Last Day of Harvest

 

 Seasonal Sections

Summer 1     Harvest      Summer 2
Fall  
  Winter      Spring

The 1st Day Of Harvest

 

Anticipated like Christmas,

it appears like an old friend

at the door.  Sun warmed waves

of wheat, acres of ripe grain

swell and ripple, rattle applause

with the wind.  Poised, the combine

waits, hungry for work.  We tinker

around the machine—slap drive

belts for tightness, search

for missed zerks not yet greased. 

Sieves and screens are aligned,

sickle teeth re-inspected. Oil levels

are checked again.  Pliers fall

into pockets.  Dad starts the engine.

Every nut and bolt shakes

with the first rush of fuel.

Smoke, black diesel, spot-stains

the air.  Crawling, the combine

tastes the crop, harvests its first

bite of bread.  Dry as crust,

chaff and wheat dust sparkle

around us.  Knee-deep

in the warm wake of fresh-cut

stubble, my brother and I wade

into the field.  The day’s heat

spills over our backs as we explore

handfuls of straw, search the ground

for leftovers.  Young again, Grandpa

watches the combine carve faster

into the shimmer of uncut wheat. 

Soon, we will all be running.

 

 

The 3rd Day Of Harvest

  

No one thing

is out of rhythm.

Wind is everywhere.

Loose like a child

in the back yard.

Hot to run wild 

for the other side

of the fence.

It plays around us.

Teamed with the sun. 

Turns our skin dark.

Makes us sweat. 

Kindles consciousness

of work.  Spellbound

combines graze across

fields like buffalo.

Anxious for the next

bite.  Belches of straw

unfurl like flags

behind them.  Steered

down dirt roads

trucks moan toward

town.  A billion

billion grains

of wheat,  a Universe

of stars, heaped

upon their back. 

A red-tailed hawk

side-slips

to the next field

and returns.  A paint

brush stroke.

 

 


Breakdown

             "Right out in the middle of the field.  Damn

              the luck,"  Grandpa said. "Whew!  It's hot."

                                                        2:20 p.m.,  4th day

 

Stretched an arm’s

reach into the combine’s

guts, I two-finger

fumble the first

threads of a short

bolt into a hole

the size of a dime. 

His hands mangled

with grease, Dad

holds the new heart

of the paralyzed

machine awkwardly

in place---tells me

to hurry, curses

the steel pin

to help take the weight

from his back. 

Patience drips

from our muscles,

soaks into our shirts.

Holstered in dirty

pants, tools sag

from back pockets

anxious for a tight

quick-draw

turn on a fresh

part’s loose

nut.   A pulse

to everything

reattached.


 
 


A Tired Farmer Goes To Town

                                                   Fifth day

 

A locally scattered thundershower

comes through on a full stoked

locomotive wind, and slams

past his house.  He gets out of bed

to watch, and stands there

in the storm's confused

reflection, more a shadow

than a man.  Raindrops.

big as boots,

kick at the windows.

Then it's over.

The farmer can't sleep.

At first light

he gets in his pick-up

and goes to look at his land.

The sun rides up

on a clear sky, a shiny spot

on a porcelain plate.

An eye-batting breeze

flirts with the damp

flour scent of a delayed

harvest.  At the 5-mile corner

the farmer knows that he has drawn

out of a full-house.

He looks at his field

like it was never there.

When hail comes, size don't

matter.  Five minutes

of the pea-sized stuff

is all it takes

to iron a wheat field

flat.  He is tired

and considers never going home.

At the restaurant, some men

are not tired at all.  Conversation

spills across the contour

of damage.  To stop the erosion,

they pull their best jokes

out of their pockets and plant them

between cups of coffee.  Before noon

the farmer antes, and goes back

into his country.  He greases his combine

and enjoys the dust.

 

                       Originally Published in
                           Kansas Quarterly, 1993, V.24, N.4


 

 

 

 

 

The 7th Day Of Harvest:  

An Exhausted Farmer Sits In The Dark

                                                           11:20 p.m.

 

Too tired to be tired the farmer

shuts off the combine. 

For what weighs

like the rest of his life

he sits there glad to be absorbed

by the husk of night.  All this,

just before the whole day feels

itself back into his body.                     

The machine’s dormant motion

reverberates through his legs,

numbs his back, quivers the palms

of his hands.  Silenced, the engine’s

deep, diesel howl still echoes

in his ears.  Sun-stitched dirt

grows to his face, holds hot

to his arms.  Thoughts

elude him.  Maybe insane,

the farmer closes his eyes

and sees the long, wide, reel

that today, like the days before,

turned in front of him stroke,

after stroke, after stroke,

as it paddled crests of wheat

into the machine’s belly round,

after round.  Sun.  Sky.  Field. 

Kansas placed before him

like some gift given to a god. 

Just a man, the farmer

concedes to later ask his wife

the name of yesterday or today.  

Both feet on the ground he feels

for balance, grabs what pieces

he can find.  He looks toward

space and perceives the stars. 

Mimics of fireflies flash

into constellations.  Crickets

chirp, buzz, and hum themselves

into some accepted, undetermined

rhythm.  Tomorrow already,

the purpose certain,

there is no time for rest.     

 

                  Originally Published in
                      Comstock Review, 2003, V.17, N.2

    
 

 

 
 

 

 

 

Wheat Fields

 

Grain.  Bushels

of copper kernels

shimmer in rows

attached to saluting

battalions of  thin,

straw stalks

poised to be cut

on heat-cured days

by tired men rich

with sweat, and heavy

machines, all moving

across fields one

swath at a time

before next year's

seeds are placed

in the ground,

again

Back to Top

 

From The Wheat Trucker’s Seat

 

Most trips I make alone.  A slow haul

charted along a rough, dirt road route

toward  town.   A pilgrimage---my truck

loaded too heavy with wheat.  Dust sails

billow from beneath my tires, push me

across a broad country table.  Waves

of  yellow-varnished fields sway in harvest

ripe rhythm.  Others rest.  Dried remains

from a combine’s wake, cut stubble calm.

Saturated with summer, heat crowds the cab;

sweat drains down my back.   At the five

mile corner my foot saddles the clutch.

My arm stretches deep into the transmission. 

Gears juggle.  Strained, second blends

into third.  Third relaxes into fourth.  Inlaid

on a warm wind, the triple thrill trill of an unseen

meadowlark courses through open windows.

Chaff swirls, twists, floats from the floorboard

and flirts around my face.  One fly side-steps

with monotony across the dash.   On the coast,

my Mecca.  Elevators.  Tall pillared monuments,

shimmer like ghosts.   I meet the red Chevy.

The gray Dodge, the yellow Ford---faces blurred

behind bug blotched windshields.  We always wave

---the cowboy, the green scarfed woman, the guy

with the Cargill cap, the shirtless kid.  Cargo dumped,

late for more, they drive panic-fast.  In the middle

of fields combine drivers wait for their first far

glimpse of a dusty, rattle-bounced blur shaped

by an empty truck.  Straw surrenders.  Grain churns

into wheat bins almost full.  In town, over-filled

trucks line the streets, bumper to bumper,

linked in over-heated homage.  The elevator

towers above us---an idol we wait our turn to visit,

deliver our families' treasure to the gods.  Trapped,

I sit here in a hurry, full of everything but time.

 

                      Originally Published in
                           KC Show & Tell, 2000, Anthology

 

Back to Top

 

 

 

Lunch Time

              6:25 p.m.

 

Quart jars of ice tea

sweat with cool.

Dirty faces and tired

hands ask for more.

Harvest surrounds us.

Backs lean against

the truck--a wind

break, a puddle

of shade.  Hats

hang on knees.

Lemonade shivers

in glasses.  Dad

tallies dead flies.

Each one dazed

with a slap.  "Roast

beef or ham salad

sandwiches?" "Pass

the fried chicken."

"Some salt, please".

"Potato salad?"

"Thanks, Mom".  Bits

of  tomorrow's 

plans shuttle

between bites.

Banana peels flop

into wheat stubble

like carp.  Chocolate

chips in cookies melt.

"Take another."  Hot

wind crowds between

us.  ”Strawberry

Jell-O?  It's almost

gone.  Potato chips?"

Grandpa belches

fulfillment.  Dirt blows

onto the brownies.

A lump of muscles,

my brother stretches

sleep across a blanket.

Combines idle behind

us, tethered dinosaurs

hungry for the next round.

 

Back to Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Old Farmer Walks With Sundown

                                         "His thinking is clear,

                                            even from where I sit."

                                                  8:55p.m., 6th day

 

Marooned with age

Grandpa drifts

across the field,

his boots deep

in stubble, each

step deliberate. 

Behind him waves

of years swell up

and break, shower

him with the withered

glitter of some old

day's recollection. 

The sun dissolves. 

Evening gathers

around him,

content. 

A sentinel,

he watches us work. 

Our machines lope

across the field. 

Whirlwinds of dust

and chaff shaken

freshly from cut

wheat rise up,

twist into shapes

of dead horses,

old tractors,

and tired men’s

faces.  Each harvest

is his last.

 

                Originally Published in
                   Mid America Review, 2002, V.3, N.2,

 

Back to Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Day Of Harvest

 

You climb up and check the oil

same as all the other days,

grease the machine in all the hidden

places until you know

it'll run slick.

Then you start the engine,

feel every nut and bolt

brace against the first surge

of fuel.  And maybe

you feel like the old man

who knows tonight is the last night

he will have to climb into bed.  Field

past field, you think

back trying to remember

how good the first harvest day

felt---how the heat,

and wheat dust welcomed you

like a mother's challenge

to walk.  Acre after acre, grain

has bouquet'd into your throat,

your steel cylinder gut

digesting load after load---hours

monogrammed inside this cab

when you felt like a combine king,

your country a kingdom stretched

to the horizon's black-thread

crease.  More hours you were nothing

---a wrench tightened instinct

lifting and lowering

the header, suggesting the machine

faster and slower, internal sounds

felt before heard, metal and rubber.

Then you live it,

the last round, a narrow swath

where you've never been, tied down

by a row of uncut corners,

tokens from every round,

leading to the road.

And then it's over.

Nothing left but stubble.

The last uncut corner

cut.  A good friend gone.

 

                       Originally Published in
                           Kansas Quarterly, 1993, V.24, N.4

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