The Fieldstone Review

Gathering

As I rake, I watch coyotes hunt for mice.
They chase the grey blades,
run behind the hum of the grind,
and dive between rows
of dry, spun yellow.

The hay falls sideways, like stacked
skeletal arms collapsed
under the sun. The rays spread out
in front of me, turning the whole field
smoke’s-end red.

The tractor’s vibrations run
between my legs and last night rolls back.
The girl from homeroom I showed
the cows to, then brought to the loft above
the milking machines.
Behind the barn door slats moonlight
filtered white strips over shadows
and yellowed cat skulls sat
near bins of cow corn
and moulded straw.

I readjust the throttle and
recall the sound of the floorboards
cracking, the way our feet got
wrapped in blue twine while calves
bawled from their stalls. I can feel
my lips, chapped and burned, but last night
they were soft with spit and pressed
on hers against the echo
of a coyote’s dry cry.

I turn to check the rows
and watch one of them pause,
jump and fall out of sight
into all that shifted hay.