He had driven half the night From far down San Joaquin Through Mariposa, up the Dangerous Mountain roads, And pulled in at eight a.m. With his big truckload of hay behind the barn. With winch and ropes and hooks We stacked the bales up clean To splintery redwood rafters High in the dark, flecks of alfalfa Whirling through shingle-cracks of light, Itch of haydust in the sweaty shirt and shoes. At lunchtime under Black oak Out in the hot corral, ---The old mare nosing lunchpails, Grasshoppers crackling in the weeds--- "I'm sixty-eight" he said, "I first bucked hay when I was seventeen. I thought, that day I started, I sure would hate to do this all my life. And dammit, that's just what I've gone and done."
Tonight I’m to occupy a single breath:
to let it slowly out as an open kettle might
release its steam, left long on the stove.
Eventually all substance turns to vapor
& accumulates in the air, then falls
again as a globe under its own weight.
Bodies must be near each other, it seems,
even when the result is simple collapse.
Only the globe is never falling—
it’s the thing that imitates the globe
falls into it, as I now imitate, & fail,
the voice of my father, who sits breathing
with his dog at the mouth of the river.
My breath, too, rises & falls. Listen.