Scythe in hand, overalls loose over his thin frame, he worked
in a steady, smooth rhythm,
swing swish swing swish,
weeds and filth falling into neat shining rows beneath his blade.
In his pocket a stone for sharpening, worn thin in the center from use,
and a Case four-blade pocketknife because he said
a man needed to have a knife on him,
never know when it might be needed.
A wide-brimmed straw hat covered thin white hair,
a bandana tied around his forehead caught the sweat.
The early June sun glinted on the long flashing steel blade
as it blurred silver against green,
silver against green,
swing swish swing swish.
I was raised on this land, never worked a day anywhere else
but right here, fixing fence and tending cattle, putting up hay.
Daddy used to grow corn in the bottom, wheat on the hill,
and sorghums too for sweetening,
We raised chickens and turkeys and two hogs every year
but with just me to do the work
I had to let some things go. A man can’t do it all.
I guess I could have made more money
working on the public works. I guess maybe
I could have amounted to something but this place,
it just held me here, a place can do that. There’s no explaining
the love of the land. You have it or you don’t.
Now he rests beneath land he does not own,
and the weeds and filth have their way with the ditches
and the hillsides he labored to keep clean.
New owners try to keep the land as it was,
but either you have it
or you don’t.