BY PAUL ASTA
From The Veteran in a New Field by Winslow Homer
In the absence of rain, the wind sang
heavy on the branches & the boys
came with matches & coveralls,
tractors & gasoline. All morning they worked
methodically—pulling us from our beds
as if we were weeds. They had come before:
packing us with care, sending us as silage
for the cattle in the winter. But the drought
had changed them. The herring stayed south—
& the fishermen’s nets stayed empty.
The crops were late to bloom & the boys grew
hungry. & though their almanac whispered dry spell,
it did not speak of fire. Did not speak of the cold
turning of blades. No, the boys did not listen—
delirious with hunger. They doused the land
in gasoline. Gathered us in a clearing
large enough for the sky to see. & whether
the sky could see or not, & whether
the sky cared or not, the almanac did not say.
& when the boys lit the fire, we broke into prayer—
the wind raising the flames higher & higher,
the boys in the distance watching us burn.