Home   Poetry  ▪  Essays    Photography  ▪  E-mail

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

Poetry: The Last Day of Harvest
Summer -Part 1

The Last Day of Harvest


 Seasonal Sections

Summer 1     Harvest      Summer 2
  Winter      Spring



Leaving Home At Age Three


Twisted and pushed

by a breeze climbed down

from its tree, the tire-swing

plays aimlessly

alone.  The barn watches,

wanting to move, its black hole

windows sinking deeper

into its face.  For no reason

the backyard fence remains on duty.

The house does not call me back.

I leave behind everything

for grandpa's old place,

walk either side the weeds

grown down the middle

of the lane, follow the creek

where summer's shade outlines

the edge of a field buttered

with ripening wheat.  Grasshoppers

snap and buzz from firebush

to sunflower, sometimes bounce

across my path.  They are mine,

if I want them, just as the green hill

across the field might be.  A quarter-mile

must be a long way.  I make it

to the walnut tree

that stands on the last bend

and rest there inside its shadow.

I can see the empty buildings.

Satisfied, I collect

the best walnuts,

stack them, throw them

at anything, unconcerned

that no one knows

I am gone.


              Originally Published in
                 Permafrost, 1987, V.9, #1











 A Farmer's Son, Age 11, Plows 6 Acres  

                                                              4 p.m.

Blunt as horse's breath,

heat, boiler room hot

laced with diesel smoke,

wraps off the tractor's engine

and hones the child

from his face.  Dust,

settled onto his bare back,

is squeezed into his shoulders

by a fat-bellied sun.  Tasteless

now, the water warm, his jug

half empty, everything

is against him; rain clouds

are nowhere.  The land evolves

into a battlefield, the plow

a dictator.  Each shrunken

round becomes larger

than the last; each minute

is an hour.  Red-tail hawks, kites

suspended in the wind, rotate

across a prairie-sized sky.

Introduced to endless,

the farmer's son is angry,

sacrificed by his father,

taken by the land.


              Originally Published in
                 WIND, 1998, Fall #81/82


















From The Tractor Driver’s Seat

               "Set a straight-back, wood chair out in the middle

                 of a big field, then sit on it all day -------- that's

                 what it's like.  There's too much time to think."

                                                                                                     R. Dean
















The Farmer’s Wife


She is the adult child

of the first mother

—the spirit that opens

the back door, rocks

the porch swing, washes

the bedding, sweeps

the floor, wipes clean

dishes dry.  She is the dog’s

second best friend, the cat’s

first, and the bucket calf’s

reason for head-butting play

tomorrow.  She is the feeder,

the killer, the fryer of chickens.

A traveler of empty roads

she is the floating dust

of shortcuts between field, town,

and home—the first gear’s

shift between machine broken

parts and repair, the extra hand.

She is the attendant of forgotten

chores, flat tires, lost patience,

and young sons’ wet splattered

aims fallen dirty feet short.

She is the admirer of yesterday’s

litters, and tonight’s comforter

of the sow’s hard, late labor. 

Hands callused, she is a mender

of hurts, a carrier of grain,

and the feeder of dirty men. 

She is never tired and never

old.  She is like weather.

On any day’s certain hour

she holds her husband’s entire

world in her bare hands.


              Originally Published in
                The Midwest Quarterly, 2007, V. 48, #4









8 Neighbors And 27 Hundred Bales

                  "Heat-alert, caution, stay indoors, avoid

               stress, and drink plenty of cool liquids." 

                                                --KSAL radio, Salina, KS
An hour into night

the day's heat is finely

wrapped with darkness,

the last bale packed

tight before our sweat

dries from its brown twine

ribbon.  The whole stack's

a package, and we glance at it,

over dirt piled

shoulders, while shaking

the chaff in our underwear

down into our salt-cured

jeans.  At home the porch light

invites us in.

We make it only as far

as the front yard,

sit there on overturned

buckets or lean sun-stained

backs on the grass.

The dog takes his turn

at our curious scents.

Beer tastes the way

beer should,

and even though chores

and supper wait, we laugh again

at the afternoon radio's

scratched record warning . . .  


"Heat-alert, caution, stay indoors,

    avoid stress, and drink plenty

       of cool liquids." 


              Originally Published in
                 Permafrost, 1987, V.9, #1


Back to Top

20,000 pounds of V-blade steel hoes the earth,

interrupts the ground behind me, each field particle

rearranged.  Velvet leaf, pig weed, firebush --

they all matter.  "All my life it's been me

against the weeds," grandpa said. "Goddamn it." 

Me too, even before I knew it.  Dirt

has always been here.  Weeds are immortal.  Temperature

gauge, fuel gauge, oil pressure, tach.  Heat faded sky

is everywhere.  Big.  Something from a children's story

mother read.  This is real; not everyone is happy.

I suffered out here, learned to understand my sweat,

just before I finished being a child.  Disturbed,

dust tried to suffocate me, take me back, crawled over

and through me, its gritty-hot hands enthused

by the sun.  Dad said we had to finish.  The circle

turns into itself, four right angles tightening

to nothing.  Distance is a matter of time.  Temperature

gauge, fuel gauge, oil pressure, tach.  The price of hogs

is lost; the cost of feed, high.  Fertilizer is priceless,

a bushel of wheat, worthless.  Fuel.  Parts. Breakdowns. 

Maintenance.  Money is the color of loans.  Maybe the bank

will burn, the papers with it.  Garnished with fear,

a field mouse stumbles across clods, escaping, its life

upset.  Mice are nothing compared to tractors.  Idling,

a red-tailed hawk coasts, vectors across thermals, one sector

to the next, more wind than bird; instincts are comfortable. 

Mice are everything to hawks.  Killing can be easy here

for anything that needs it.  In the evening's dim

late light there are ways to fix the world -- bodies

left lost in Copeland's well abandoned, or other places

seen while hunting, gone.  Diesel smoke or mist,

no one knows what I think.  Temperature gauge, fuel gauge,

oil pressure, tach.  The radio, the words of songs, melodies,

wander aimlessly around the tractor, blend with a blast

blatant roar, diesel feeding packed horses -- silent. My voices

lost to nothing, thoughts expanded flat.  I have forgotten

to listen.  A jack-rabbit bolts, zags, sprints, waits tense

teasingly cautious, too strong now for the hawk, too fast

now for me.  Dust and sun dismissed, a life ago I chased

his ancestors, bolted, zagged, circled.  Hearts beat 

hard, their pet soft summer fur in my hands.  Yesterday.

Books and notes.  Study hall -- Francine, her legs sampled

across the library's corner table, flowing, spilling. 

Shoes on the floor.  Toes.  Thighs.  Skin.  No panty hose. 

A red, leather skirt, short, tight filled with luxury.

There were other places -- her breasts breathing

beneath her blouse, a National Geographic in her hand. 

She knew there were places I could've gone.  Some things

get away.  Temperature gauge, fuel gauge, oil pressure,

tach. Like tomorrow, I am hungry.  I am tired.  I am crazy.

There is too much time to think, too much space

to see.  Later, mother will bring me food.  Sandwiches,

ice tea, chips, dessert. We will sit along the dirt road

together, backs against the car -- swat flies, watch

grasshoppers.  My being crazy will go unnoticed; happy

to be my mother, she will leave the way she came.  Meadowlarks

and red-winged blackbirds go about their business, float

between tall weeds and ground, hopscotch from clod

to clod.  The tractor goes around and around, circling

like a buzzard.  Maybe it is waiting for grandpa. 

He is too old to farm; he is dead.  Sometimes I look up

and he is there pacing, driving back and forth, back

and forth along the road, waiting and watching.  Occasionally

he walks a few yards across the field and stands -- a monument,

back pockets filled with old gloves and hands, eyes filled

with bumper crops.  Age is bottomless.  Temperature gauge,

fuel gauge, oil pressure, tach.  People lived here

once.  West, a mile away, a house in the middle of a field,

a corpse.  On that corner north, a barn, nothing but scattered

rocks.  Over east, a half mile there, where a corn field

used to be, is where my father played, running hogs

out of the creek -- old tractors, old dogs, an old grey

house -- black and white pictures, rotted boards,

rust, and bones.  I never came to the front door

for another twenty-five years.  A year ago I shot a deer,

a buck, there.  20,000 pounds of steel hoes the earth,

interrupts the ground behind me.  Velvet leaf, pig weed,

firebush -- they all matter; everything has changed,

nothing is different.  Temperature gauge, fuel gauge,

oil pressure, tach.


              Originally Published in
                 Potato Eyes, 1999, F/W, V2, #2



Back to Top