Wednesday, December 5, 2012

If It Rains

As are most of my poems, today's is fairly straightforward, dealing with harsh realities.

These are still just as harsh, and just as real, I'm sure, as when I was growing up in Southern Illinois.

How dependent, how at the mercy of the weather, were those who tried to make a living from the soil.

Life was one big gamble, and nobody knew the odds, exactly, except that they always seemed to be against the players.

Rather than a single, memorable incident, this piece represents an accumulation of impressions, and is about no particular, single farmer, but all farmers who face the odds and keep playing this most difficult game, betting against the weather year after year.

The poem:


Paper-dry corn emits a sigh
as an arid breeze riffles
the long, dead rows
of ochre and gray, searching
for moisture. Even weeds
are limp with thirst.

Last year had been a good one,
so he paid down some debt
and, less burdened,
plowed and planted once more
on gentle, warming slopes
as spring returned.
It may rain tomorrow, he says,
knowing that it's too late
to salvage this crop.

But if it does rain tomorrow,
next week, or next month,
that may be enough
to sustain last spring's hopes
through the rages of winter,
and he will plow again.
© 2003

(Originally published in Capper's, this poem is from my first collection, Chance of Rain, published by Finishing Line Press)

Today's word: if

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