It Was Time Again for Bushhogging the Paddock


AND THERE I was five-foot-four and most way old enough
to drive and so with the kind of deliberation useful
for disguising fear my father went about showing me
the stick shift on the old Ford tractor the one he bought
with his first government wages and loved so much
he even had it loaded on a lowboy and brought down
to this house when he moved off the mountain this house
where every morning he took coffee on the porch
watching two wild turkeys disappear into the woods
with the last of the dark and on this day he taught me how
the clutch engages and to keep careful on the revolutions
per minute leaving one hand on the wheel the other
steady behind me on the mower lever ready
to cut the motor at the agreed-upon signal a hand knifing
across a neck and this day was a turning over
of something like an engine coughing slowly while
my father walked ahead scouting in that grass so tall
only the shoulders of his blue shirt peeked out above
the green-brown stalks that my machine trampled and spat
out behind me with the constant turning of that heavy steel
blade he explained was dull by design to whack but not
catch in the dense growth and here I was cutting clean
the swath behind me in the field scanning to my side
to check for big rocks and other unmowables and I might
as well have been Hannibal riding an elephant over
an alp and I felt the earth yielding for the first time
to my adulthood as I sawed a slow zigzag back across
the paddock but then it was there the flutter of wings
alongside me and my father yelling which seen from
a tractor is a visual of a mouth opening all the way
and not closing overwhelmed by the din of the engine
and his hand waved the signal across his neck wild
and we watched two turkeys flee to the woods
while we waited for the blade to sputter stopped and there
in the earned silence I climbed down from the giant
stilled tire and my father pointed me to the dashed nest
the dozen broken eggs and whatever he’d yelled
he’d already gotten it all out and now was well past
speaking he simply turned and walked the long way back
up to the house through the tall grass that closed behind
him in the buzzing air and so I followed hoping we might

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