All week the threshing machine spat straw.
And then there it sat, a great yellow dome
begging to be climbed if you could do it.
I couldn’t. Nobody could, not a straw pile -
a running start and a loud whoop gained you
a few feet but not the summit, ever.
It was the pigs, rubbing and burrowing
around the edges, who started the other game.
They’d thrust their shoulders against the stack,
then root and trench their way around the base.
Before long they had undercut the edge
and turned their crooked paths toward the center,
rambling pig-sized tunnels just right for a boy
on his knees, and there I was, crawling around
beneath who knows how many tons of straw
held up by pillars any runt could knock down.
Breathe deeply and ease in, grope your way along.
Follow the shoat trotting through the dark -
he grunts in fear of you, not of the path.
Hold your breath against the rot and something
that’s cramping your heart. Let the shoulders glide
gently, so gently, along the walls. Let it doze,
let it dream of quiet days in the sun
when a wren could light unnoticed. Let it sleep
like a child till you reach the other side
and daylight: stained knees, manure up to your wrists,
but you’re out now, and no column fell.
And if it had, that great stack would have made no sound–
oh, a little sigh, perhaps, as it listed
a few degrees, exhaled a wisp or two,
and snuggled around me its gentle bulk.
© David Black, 2011
|Haystack at Giverny, by Monet|