Farm Road

When I was a kid
I’d spend the drive to my grandpa’s house
in the backseat of our Fairlane
looking at fields
plowed across the land.
With no hills to interrupt the view,
I could see all the way down the rows
until the mounds of dirt
or lines of cotton merged
into a faraway vanishing point.

The scissoring of those rows
one after another after another after another
reminded me then,
and still does now,
of skinny legs striding,
nearly keeping up with our progress.

Center pivot systems,
which can irrigate a half-mile radius
have replaced the old method of draping hoses
into the rows, running well water in rivers
up long dirt appendages.
Now fields are plowed
to match the pivot’s path
as it turns in slow moist circles all summer long.

No more dirt legs pace me on my drive.

For a day or two after a rain
puddles fill roadside ditches.
If conditions are right –
clear sky, no wind, bright sun –
the water will mirror
dirt, telephone poles, crops.

And if you turn your head just right,
or narrow your eyes into a squint,
those reflections will become
a hole, a narrow gash into the center of the earth.

Once the wind picks up –
and the wind always picks up –
the illusion is erased by ripples on the water’s surface.

The dawn was the color that is exactly
between blue and pink while cloud fringes
were rimmed in gold,
like the setting of a gemstone ring.
Last night’s full moon hovered on the western sky,
an opal glowing.
As the sun grew brighter
the moon-opal began to evaporate,
craters disappearing first,
until it was like it had never even
been there to begin with.

The land seems flat enough
until three foggy mornings in a row
show how the mist settles into the county,
surveying the low spots.

The dip at the crossroads that mark the half-way point,
just before the road curves right-then-left
to skirt the water well on the south side,
holds fog,
keeping the well,
and the reason for the curves,

The place where the road
bisects the normally-dry playa lake
is low enough
and broad enough
to contain a foggy nebula
that lingers even when it’s burned off
everywhere else.

And just past the house
where I once saw a farmer,
pitchfork in hand,
walking toward a freshly-dead
German Shepherd in the east-bound lane,
the road dips,
and fog slides down
to hang at the bottom,
mingled, maybe,
with the specter of that dog.

Sun and age and wind plow wrinkles
into the contours of the farmer’s face.
His forehead,
shielded by a faded red cap
from the co-op gin,
stays smooth.

A stray stand of cotton next to the road,
white puffs bright on dry stalks,
looks like a patch
of missed whiskers
on a furrowed face.

The cotton harvest went for months,
well into the wettest winter ever.

The module trucks hauling
huge loaves of cotton to the gin
shed mud onto the road,
leaving clods that traffic mashes
into red-brown cobblestones
so hard that even more snow
doesn’t dissolve them.

Every trip made
by every truck
built up the cobbles
until the road by the gin
was paved over
and driving at highway speed
was unwise.

When dry weather eventually arrived
the weight of traffic
pulverized the cobblestones
turning them to dust
that the next strong wind

From the top of the rise,
the cows look like kiwi seeds
scattered in the bright green winter wheat.

In the east half of the county
unpaved north-south roads
carry bird’s names,
alphabetically – bobwhite, hawk,
nightingale, all the way through quail.

East-west roads
carry the names of animals –
bear, cat, elk, fox
and so forth.

Which brings to my mind –
for this is how I think –
the inevitable intersection:
horse and nightingale.