The Recollection



On an April day

like this I’d

look out the window

Where half a dozen

Shit-smeared skinny

Sway-backed scrubs

Heads down

Cropped stubble

That last Summer

Had been my grass.


“Bob,” I’d phone

On the party line

“Your heifers are out.”

“OK,” he’d answer

I’ll be right over.”


Ten minutes later

On his battered tractor

With yelping dog

Bob would come

Riding herd.


The heifers unconcerned

Headed back to his tumbling barn

Eating as they trotted

Kicking at the nipping dog.


I was a better farmer than Bob

My neat mows still hay-filled in April

My thrifty heifers still in winter quarters

They didn’t need to browse

Leached brown grass left over

On its roots beneath two feet

Of snow since Christmas.


“We’ll have to mend that fence,”

Bob would say squinting

Puffing at his pipe

And I’d agree

But unlike Robert Frost

And his good neighbor

My pasture didn’t touch on Bob’s

It wasn’t up to me I reasoned

To mend a fence where my cows never grazed.


I’d have to do it though

For his hungry heifers

Would be out again

Even before grass was green

Or oats and corn were up

(What kind of fence was that

To mend—rotting posts

Rusted wire strands

That broke before you pulled them taut?)


I’d been to farm school

I knew

And the cost of wire

Didn’t faze me

I could afford smugness

As I smiled and said

“Name the day.”


The day was never named

Now Bob is gone

His shit-smeared heifers too

His ten stunted cows

That barely gave a can of milk a day

And mine are gone and all the other

Neighbors’ herds are gone.


No one’s left who wants to farm

These high brown April fields

Where you can look across

To growing woods

Where twenty years ago

Were other April fields

Like these.