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Agriculture Begins:


Cleared forests and carbon for warmth
Rice in paddies and cows in pastures and the methane rising—

Failure evinces in the boy a tenderness towards the pig,
A need to kiss its soft ears and mouth.

And the family sleeps by the rotten grain,
And the workers breathe in the wasted cotton, the boles.

[Pause for the Black Death, as plows and shovels still, the world temporarily cools—]

The gods made land so we could bury in it—

From coal, release the old sunlight it holds and build again.

***

We till the fields and tend the fruit.

Bacon called the self "a grinding machine:"
One machine causes dreams of horses, another great sadness.

Returning, like Persephone,
To the scene of the crime, willingly, repeatedly.
I plant my body in the ground and in the spring I grow.

Like fire that burns the field, prepares it for crops, let the mind be seared by failure into readiness.

Smaller rabbits this year, fewer quail—

At last the animals starved by drought will eat the cactus, spines and all.

***

[crops that dissolved into earth with drought, crops that through mouths became winged things and flew, ice that wilted the lettuce, train car that stalled on tracks, water diverted to the city, that we had no wood for coffins, that I could keep no hens alive, that leaves become lace overnight, the field a gown with delicate feathers, mold that ruins the hay, in your lungs the blooms, in your lungs the delicate tendrils and trees from the mines]

***

Trees burned back to root. The long-drawn-out filaments of smoke. Saltbrush that chokes everything.

Egyptians covered mummies in wet linen to plant corn on,
Osiris sprouting green, flowers through the cloth.

Woodpeckers work to hollow the flesh of the tree.

Ten years of growth, ten years of fire.
The worst fire in the worst drought
Of recorded history.

[Cue: Each year, a new state's announcer speaks this line.]

[Plant upon your gods, make them fields and keepers of the fields, if crops fail on the bodies of gods you have proof of earth acting upon you, proof of the sun's vast power, proof of indifference and decay.]

—A scourge over the sky of birds and white ashy snow.

[Ancestors in the ground means you own the land.]

A slow combing through the dark warm soil—

Each year, we bury more of it.


Sasha West

Green Mountains Review

Volume 26, No. 1


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