i gather seed

on this last gasp sunny 70degree day
i pluck red (and mostly red) tomatoes,
i harvest parsley, 
i clip flowers,
i gather seed
_______

the wind that comes in sweeping
what remains with it
of summer
_______
it’s a real life practice
art of asking
i say
this thing about the vulnerability
of reaching towards other people
_______
from the ater world:

A Hindu devotee applies vermillion powder on the forehead of her husband as they perform rituals on the banks of the Yamuna River during Chhath Puja festival in New Delhi, India.

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a sea we swim in

cucumber harvest collected in grayteal hoodie and gathered like a bindle
most likely the last of the season
hauled in and placed in a falling-apart collander
_______
the sweetness of this:
Jeaux handing the half pint of fine red powder to Kris
and later another to Dean
chipotle – peppers sandhill grew and jeaux smoked and dried and blended
_______
at the point
when i am angry with the foxtail
for being a sea we swim in to get to the sorghum
(a sea that rises to my forehead)
at the point i want to quite
but we are so close to finished
i begin
to hum
leaning on the notes
to bring me through

_______
birdie the cat
drunk on sun and heat
nap-fresh
rolling over to give me her belly
of softest whitest fur
_______

there are mumblings of snow
in the forecast of
the next few days
_______

there is no grand hurrah
but the final sorghum stalk of the season
has been stripped and cut and bundled
left in the field to cure
until we fire up the steam boiler
and get the mill clattering
for the final cook of 2017 
and maybe of ever
_______

the rustling outside cool ranch in the fallen leaves at night
something snarfing up all the fallen persimmons
how i search several times
with the beam of my headlamp and how
on the third or fourth i see:
two young raccoons walking about each other
getting fat for the winter that approaches
and the flicker-flight-swoop back-forth back-forth of a bat
from sugar shack lean-to and then woods-ward and back again
and something glimmers in me
at the thought that it might be clingy, my resident widow bat
_______
how a sound filling the night air crisp with cool and glinty with stars and a fat quarter moon draws me out of my door, onto the porch, up the mushroom yard path, into the orchard and up to the greenhouse near
where the small fire glows and the heart-in-guts-rising-up-into-chest-and-spilling-out-of-mouth-into-firelit/starburnt-night song is being sung/heartpoured/wailed
and how i stay on the edges, shadowed, i don’t want to sit in the circle – but i do want to quench the part of me that didn’t realize it was thirsty
and how this changes the way the night feels (same as when ty and dottie were recording music in the sugar shack and the sound and light floated out) 
a sense that the roots, the limbs, the leaves, the microbes in the soil are feasting on this too – spirit and sound this land has long been hungry for

of machetes slicing

dramatic  is one word for the gray sky and strong winds
that press the sorghum stalks over in one direction then another
as we swipe our gloved hands down the length of them, stripping their leaves off
and snapping the seed heads at the second node
_______

the sharpie knuckle tatts we give each other
in the knuckle-tatt/exquisite corpse game
in the field after lunch, our gloves tattooed with things such as:
fine cats
boss gold
fast tree
puff poor

_______
kris and ty and i laughing our heads off
as we walk down underpass naming (in response to the lacking/not so useful contents of the bacpack first aid kit we carry out into the field)
all the ridiculous (useless) things one could put in the backpack first aid kit:
a brick
a whoopie cushion
a lava lamp
a magic eight ball
a pumace stone
a crossword puzzle

_______

the swing and shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhing! of machetes slicing
into the afternoon 
whose sky is a ceramic blue and 
is contrasted/complemented by the mellow green of the bare stalks jutting up against it
_______
from the water world:

People collect mountain spring water in Corozal, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria hit the island.

Residents paddle boats in a flooded village after heavy rain caused by a tropical depression, in Hanoi, Vietnam.

so sustenance-ful

the sun
that finally shows itself
through treehouse window
glowing on the morning thoughts
of free spirits
_______
the organics inspector
handing me a piece of paper
with the name of a nebraska poet
(whose last name might have one t 
or might have two)
written on it
_______
the tiny black bugs
that land and bite
on forearms, on calves
as i collect cosmos seed
in the heat of the low sun
_______
cynthia and i snacking
on the ‘cheese’ pretzel chex-like
snack mix
on the drive back along these great expanses
of bright bright risen (like a bowl of dough) green
plus autumnal treeglow on top
_______
under the upside down bowl
tyler reveals, boiled,
the first chestnut harvest
at sandhill
and the tasture (taste and texture)
so sustenance-ful
in my mouth
_______
one moth bumping
against the pane of a window
because that’s where all the light is
makes a remarkable amount of sound
(to the point of audio-ly resembling raindrop)
i turn off the light
 _______
from the water world:

Farmers paddle in a boat at a flooded village after a tropical depression in Hanoi, Vietnam. – voice of america, day in photos

gale/gust: a defiant and humble cry

8am sips of just-pressed sweet sweet sorghum juice 
swilled while gloved and earmuffed
ready to feed cane to the clacking mill
this rhythym
this making
this feeling connected to the fall harvest humming out everywhere around us
this coming together
this tradition of literal sweetness
this heartcore of sandhill farm

oh, and the sun
lsying its light
across everything

(and how good this work feels
in my spirit and limbs
and how tyler letting out a whoop! upon my arrival at the mill to feed cane through the pressers/rollers is so much history,
is kinship,
is all of these beautiful weird wild years
in these handbuilt gorgeous and mildewy spaces
and on the breaking and broken tractors and in the weedy/wonderful gardens/fields
and around the heat of fires glimmering in stoves
and all of these things stacked on top of each other and 
distilled into the sweetest sips of squeezed cane 

that whoop! is every joke we’ve ever made about dingleberries and furries and putting a ring on it and haunted hayless rides and greens on the side of a salad meal and lord knows what else
that whoop! is the heartbreak of knowing what it is to love a place while coming to understand that one can no longer live there
that whoop! is the yelp-yowl of a high school senior walking out on the last day after the last class
that whoop! is a word for all the other words we haven’t learned yet or don’t know how to say about leaving, about trying, about how becoming family is beautiful and about how family is perhaps the most difficult thing on the planet
that whoop! is a nod to all the celebratory twist cones ever consumed at the mennonite store down the road and that whoop! is also a word for how we, believe it or not, might be weird and nostalgic enough to feel sentimental even about the weekly sunday meetings which most of us typically drag our feet to
that whoop! is for the butcher block – one could do the math to estimate the number of meals lovingly or annoyedly or celebratorily chopped and set out there – but the real sense of it is countlessness – that butcher block that has stood there in one single place longer than any of us (sandhillians)  have lived in a single place in our lives – and that butcher block will remain as the sun seems to – a thing to orbit around – regardless of who does or doesn’t plant the sorghum or who stays and who goes or what thrives and what is given back to the land or who the land is given back to
that whoop! is a defiant and humble cry – for having believed enough to try and for still believing and for deciding/knowing that we will try again/another
it is a defiant and humble cry admitting that we are just putting one foot in front of the other, best we know how – not always graceful, but committed to the learning – the lifework, the lessons that come through unlikely teachers
that whoop! is a call up to the occasional Vs of geese, migrating overhead at an altitude too high to hear us, but still, we whoop! to all the wild wonder of here, of what got us here, and of what will take us – like a gale or a gust – away)

nothing says fall

em asking me to tie his skull-print piratey do-rag on his head
and then him lego-ing while i read aloud from a book of scary things (weather, killer animals, the bermuda triangle)
and there is something throughout the day that i smile extra to myself about that do-rag
(i would already smile in the first place because i love it
but then the extra-ness because of tying it on in the second place)
which might be the closest
to a parental tug
i might ever feel
_______
how i grab the shovel and emory meets me on his bike and 
i ask him to grab a stick while i leverage
scooping the roadside rigid and perfect possum body
(lighter on top, darker in the legs)
with flies and bees buzzing
in its mouth
and the three chicory flowers i place
over its eyes
before layering the dried grass on/over

________
robbie and i, new berlinites, doing the softball pose in the dahlias
while cynthia snaps the photos
_______
nothing says fall like a ride on a wagon hitched to a tractor
and here we are all
riding down the gravel road
on the double wagons
hitched to the gas-fuming tractor
(my neckercheif pulled up over my nose)
our work gloves on
our bodies readying for the field dance
of scooping up awkward-to-carry bundles of cane
and dropping them onto the wagons
_______
emory, eric and i
in the field to the west of the pond
awaiting the next wagon
each of us with a sorghum leaf tucked
in the back of our hats
like a single tall feather,
kendra and zeke follow suit
_______
dottie and i in the orchard
after several rounds of cane pick-up
kicking and kneeing and headbutting and chesting (etc) a work glove back and forth
as if it were a hacky sack and me
losing it to the hilarity
completely
with every kick
_______
the hum-whine of combines drifting in the distance
at night in light of moon
as they harvest what seems like endless corn
(though not as endless as the corn in nebraska)
how this is another entry
for the sandhill sound dictionary
and how, if there is ever a fall northeast missouri sound to be nostalgic about,
this is one
_______
i want to be seen
and i want to know the world
and mess with it
she says (i’m paraphrasing)
about how our kind
want to burn

_______

from the water world: 

Lanny Dean, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, wades along a flooded Beach Boulevard next to Harrahs Casino as the eye of Hurricane Nate pushes ashore in Biloxi, Mississippi. – voice of america, day in photos

the day in pieces

the classic redness
of the apples we pluck
from heavy branches
trying to call out
when the fruit is falling near another’s head/body
filling crate after crate
with the best baking apples
(oh! the sweetness!)
i’ve ever tasted
_______

the almost unbearable buzzing and 
diving of bees
hovering around the windfall fruit
and zipping past
our ears
cheeks
noses
_______
the multi-colored zig zgs printed 
on the fabric i guide through the machine
that stitches elastic to fabric
_______
the new growth
which surprises all of us
on the green bean plants we work our way down
plunking the harvest into buckets
_______

moonstar the cat and the sometimes small snore
that comes out of her always small self
curled up in the medium sized priority mail box
made cozy with fleece scraps
as i write down the day
in pieces
_______

i mississippi river you like nobody’s business she writes
and i know exactly
what this feels like