Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mowing Memories

by Richard Hartwell

Right-handed spirals continual enclose round-cornered rectangles,
Mowing borrowed hay on a nearby neighbor’s high pasture meadow,
As the reciprocating mower blade hangs off to the right of the tractor.

The first sweep around this inconvenient field must circle to the left,
Clearing a perimeter path next to the fence, an avenue for the tractor,
Close to the berry vines and wild thistle without cutting them down too.

I tie the knot of my track in front of the open gate to the pasture,
Reversing my direction, where I will continually spiral clockwise,
Circling right, always towards the center, slicing off a six-foot swath.

Like dragging your hand in the water from the side of a canoe,
The tractor spins continually to the right, devouring stalks of hay,
Churning up a golden wave, disrupting little lives in the field.

I leave small snakes, fuzzy quail, and gray dots of mice in my wake,
Their mixed blood tempers the mower’s edge, as tendrils of smoke
Rise from the blade, threatening to start the August field on fire.

Twice around and I stop to grease the cutter-bar before it overheats,
Breaks the new weld, and throws the blade from its protective sleeve;
I’d burn my hands retrieving it, with only one extra blade this trip out.

The scavengers behind me are busy burying the dead in their bellies,
Impatiently waiting for me to start circling again, chasing the hay,
Celebrating their feast day with diminished hiding places at the center.

Still, this familiar baptism of blood on the blade saddens me,
Its visual litany reminding me of other seeping rites of spring:

I recall the tinge of blood I found on the antlers scuffed off last year,
Against the low limbs of a big pine up above on Wilson’s ridge.
I recall the bloated and blood-swollen rumps of young cows,
First freshened by the smell of the field bull one farm over, and
His dangling frenzy as he broke through the barbwire to reach them.
I recall the red-speckled dampness on the warm eggs in the geraniums,
Seized just before it gels and sets into an indifference of its purpose.
I recall the afternoon appointment made with the recruiter in town,
Mount the tractor, wipe my sweat, and release the clutch again.

I can’t disappoint the scavengers as I wind up mowing for a while,
Encircling the high meadow with one more memory I’ll need later.

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