In Kansas


The ‘49 dawn set me high on a roaring yellow tractor,
slipping the clutch or gunning a twenty-foot combine
to spurt that red-gold wheat into Ceres' mechanical womb;
I'd set her on course and roll for a straight two miles
before turning left, and that got monotonous as hell,
at first all the roar and dust and the jiggling stems
                  collapsing
to whisk up that scything platform and be stripped of
                  their seed,
then even the boiling from under of rats and rabbits
                  scrambling
to hide again in their shrinking island of tawny grain
as the hawks hung waiting their harvest of torn fur
                  and blood.
So I'd play little god with sunflowers drooping
                  their yellow heads;
see a clump coming and spin the wheel left, right,
                  straight.
The shuddering combine swiveled on its balljoint hitch
first right, then left, its great chatter of blades
                  swinging
so the tip barely brushed those flowers and left
                  their clump standing
like a small green nipple out from the golden breastline
            and next time past
reversing wheel-spins cut free a sinuous lozenge left
                  for the bumblebees
with butter-and-black-velvet tops limp-nodding over
                        wilted leaves.
But sunflowers weren't enough. I left on the slick stubble
                  islets
of blue-flowered chicory, scarlet poppies, and just
            for the hell of it cockleburs.
"From now on, kid, you run that sumbitch straight,"
                        the farmer said.
Hell's bells, out on that high prairie I bet goldfinches
bobwhites, and pheasants still are feasting
            in that farmer's fields
on the flower seeds I left out, summer, fall and
                              winter harvests
that make the bread I eat taste better
                  by not being ground up with it,
                              then or now.


Carter Revard, Winning the Dust Bowl, University of Arizona Press, 2001.