Early Cutting

For Ed Elderman

When they take the winter wheat at home
all the other crops are green.
In granaries and tight truck boxes
farm boys are slow scoop-shovel metronomes
singing harvest deep in the grain.

The old men come out to watch, squat in the stubble,
break a lump of dirt and look at it on their hands,
and mumbling kernels of the sweet hard durum,
they think how it survived the frozen ground
unwinding at last to this perfect bread
of their mouths.

Where they call it the Red River Valley of the North
there are no mountains,
the floor is wide as a glacial lake--Agassiz,
the fields go steady to the horizon,
sunflower, potato, summerfallow, corn,
and so flat that a shallow ditch
can make tractor drivers think of Columbus
and the edge.