Hardweed Path Going


      Every evening, down into the hardweed
going,
the slop bucket heavy, held-out, wire handle
freezing in the hand, put it down a minute, the jerky
smooth unspilling levelness of the knees,
      meditation of a bucket rim,
lest the wheat meal,
floating on clear greasewater, spill,
down the grown-up path:

      don't forget to slop the hogs,
      feed the chickens,
      water the mule,
      cut the kindling,
      build the fire,
      call up the cow:

      supper is over, it's starting to get
dark early,
better get the scraps together, mix a little meal in,
nothing but swill.

      The dead-purple woods hover on the west.
I know those woods.
Under the tall, ceiling-solid pines, beyond the edge of
field and brush, where the wild myrtle grows,
      I let my jo-reet loose.
A jo-reet is a bird. Nine weeks of summer he
sat on the well bench in a screened box,
a stick inside to walk on,
      "jo-reet," he said, "jo-reet."
      and I
would come up to the well and draw the bucket down
deep into the cold place where red and white marbled
clay oozed the purest water, water celebrated
throughout the county:
      "Grits all gone?"
      "jo-reet."

      Better turn him loose before
cold weather comes on.
      Doom caving in
      inside
      any pleasure, pure
      attachment
      of love.

Beyond the wild myrtle away from cats I turned him loose
and his eye asked me what to do, where to go;
he hopped around, scratched a little, but looked up at me.
Don't look at me. Winter is coming.
Disappear in the bushes. I'm tired of you and will
be alone hereafter. I will go dry in my well.
      I will turn still.
Go south. Grits is not available in any natural form.
Look under leaves, try mushy logs, the floors of piny-woods.
South into the dominion of bugs.

      They're good woods.
But lay me out if a mourning dove far off in the dusky pines starts.

      Down the hardweed path going,
leaning, balancing, away from the bucket, to
Sparkle, my favorite hog, sparse, fine black hair,
grunted while feeding if rubbed,
scratched against the hair, or if talked to gently:
got the bottom of the slop bucket:
      "Sparkle..."
      "grunt, grunt..."
      "You hungry?"
      "grunt, grunt..."
      "Hungry, girly?"
      "grunt, grunt, grunt...."
blowing, bubbling in the trough.

      Waiting for the first freeze:
"Think it's going to freeze tonight?" say the neighbors,
the neighbors going by.

      Hog-killing.

Oh Sparkle, when the axe tomorrow morning falls
and the rush is made to open your throat,
I will sing, watching dry-eyed as a man, sing my
      love for you in the tender feedings.

      She's nothing but a hog, boy.

Bleed out, Sparkle, the moon-chilled bleaches
      of your body hanging upside-down
hardening through the mind and night of the first freeze.


A.R. Ammons, Expresssions at Sea Level, Ohio State University Press, 1960.