I am a stubborn ox dreaming 
of rain as the drover's fingers drum 
around my eyes. But no: the wet 
hum of flies distracted me, 
and now the plow has drifted from 
the line I meant to follow. See 
where the damp leather of the reins 
has worn the callus on my left 
forefinger raw? Or was it the dry, 
ash handle of my hoe? I can hear 
the steel head singing as it strikes 
rocky ground, the fresh-turned earth 
swallowing showers of sparks. The tip 
of my tongue goes dry. I touch my lips 
to the soil as I once touched you, here 
and there. A single knot of dirt 
crumbles slowly in my mouth 
with the taste of sweet butter dripping 
from your thumb. This ground will raise 
a heavy crop. I am the wheat 
that flowed around your waist like water. 
I am that lonely knot of earth.

From The Invisible World by John Canaday, forthcoming from Louisiana State University Press in 2002. © Copyright 2001 by John Canaday. Used by permission. All rights reserved.