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
to whisk up that scything platform and be stripped of
then even the boiling from under of rats and rabbits
to hide again in their shrinking island of tawny grain
as the hawks hung waiting their harvest of torn fur
So I'd play little god with sunflowers drooping
their yellow heads;
see a clump coming and spin the wheel left, right,
The shuddering combine swiveled on its balljoint hitch
first right, then left, its great chatter of blades
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
But sunflowers weren't enough. I left on the slick stubble
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
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.