“Farmer,” Ensign, Mar. 1985, 65


    Ensign Poetry Contest Third Place Winner

    detail of an oil on canvas by A. Bertram

    You could say he waits for mail

    from the tree stump near his box,

    built on a rough post like the one

    your father soaked in diesel oil

    and sank next to the road.

    But he looks to the companion sky, unsolitary.

    His hands are leather, tanned

    deep and thick. They grip the hoe

    on which he leans forward slightly.

    You can smell the dryness of the year,

    cheat grass browning along the lane,

    a few oxeye daisies.

    You could say he is thirsty—

    has been for years—from the dry

    creases around his lips.

    Permanent squint lines face the sun,

    his skin the russet of deep autumn.

    Perhaps he grew from boyhood

    on this land. His cap is weighted

    to its fit by dust and sweat.

    The denim jacket frays at the cuffs,

    faded shoulders slope and wrinkle forward.

    What you know is this:

    if you reach to touch

    the pale stubble of his whiskers—

    perhaps three days growth—you will feel

    the soft rasp of your father’s face,

    warmed and ripened with the harvest.