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“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.