P A S T U R E S O F
Y O K E L
Because I believed in what I saw
Blue jay never leaves —
Pastures of Plenty
The truck we are loading is an eighteen
Foot flatbed with two foot high side
Panels welded on as thick plate iron.
Native picked it up from another
Backwoods boy who bought it for $200
And sold it to Native for $1,000, though he
Doesn’t seem too troubled by the math since
He had it paid off in a week hauling salvage.
Today we are hauling salvage, but instead of
Cleaning it out of the lower pasture and
Getting it off to a recycling plant in a
Far off town, nothing is working right.
The loader is broken down mid-pasture, its
Bucket jawed-open in the air. The dumpsters
Have never been delivered and there’s people
In town who want this place condemned now.
Native’s got cars and trucks and more junk
Already filling an upper pasture, and since
No jurisdiction has been indicated by the
Town by-laws against that pasture, we heap
Four circus loads of junk this afternoon and
Watch its delivery go to the upper pasture
Hearing its grumble roll off up there.
So much for progress — which means
Someday it will all have to be picked
Up again — maybe not by Native and
His bunch, but a cleanup crew that will
Be hired by the town, with taxpayers’
Money (some of it mine), to load it all
Up once more and make these
Pastures, pastures again.
Not on your life.
If it’s not a junkyard — then it will be real estate.
If it’s real estate — it will be a few new
Houses built lopsided on turgid ground
Once made of potatoes and cattle and a few
Grazing horses, but the last twenty years ruined
By oil spills, junk metal and pallets of old
Batteries clumped into a landfill.
For the past four hours we have been
Tossing gas stoves, bottled tanks, busted
Computer monitors, truck hoods and
Bumpers, a Canon copier and Coke
Machine rolled up onto the flatbed.
It has nothing to do with mechanics and
Everything to do with making a living the
Old-fashioned way: moving other people’s junk.
In another era the king-size flatbed would
Be carting a towering hold of new baled
Hay fresh cut off the neighborly fields and
From these pastures — cowbirds following —
The sting of sunburn and sharp prick nettles
A pecker wet sweat work as the load swayed
Across the road and down dipped into
The dooryard toward the barn and
Its upper swung-open hayloft hatch.
But since then it’s been a new dawn —
The barn has burned down and what
Was once grassland has been spoiled.
Three bruiser sons move around shirtless
Like bears growling out at the road.
While the old farmer that sold the place
Refuses to return for a visit.
Clayton, who I haven’t
Spoken to for almost a
Lifetime, I read he shot
A deer first weekend of
Hunting season and the
Poor thing wasn’t more
Than 87 pounds, and I
Can’t help but think of
The youngster next town
Over who was pictured in
The newspaper with his
First buck and all 110
Pounds this boy seemed
To have his arms around
Clayton used to hate me
For my long beard and years
Later when I went to the river
And cut it off, threw it in,
I noticed right after Clayton
Had started one of his own
But we wouldn’t see one
Another until a long time
After that and to this day
I don’t think he even
Knew who I was — talking
Like I knew him — and where’d
I come from suddenly showing
Up in the road where he is
Running his tractor for the
Town chopping down brush but
He stopped a moment when I
Asked if he’d be interested
In signing a petition to help
Save the village covered bridge —
The bridge he drove over since
A boy on sled, manure spreader,
Pulled baler and old trucks
Hell no! how’d I get logs
Over if we don’t finally get
Rid of that bridge and put in
Something that makes sense
Is how he waved-off looking
At me, knowing he’d seen me
Somewhere but chewing the
Short hairs around his lips
He can’t remember where or
How so many years ago we killed
Snakes together, fixing fence posts
Shingling roofs and high-stepped
In cement to spread, tap pails
Soldered and slabwood bucked
Those cold blue mornings in the
Dooryard our two figures fiddling
Over a dropsy tractor and day begins
When at first cough of a greasy
Exhaust is all that spoils the air