Paul Hamill

December 16, 2009

Barn Story

Filed under: Uncategorized — paul @ 12:32 pm



A century and a quarter old or more,

Its steep roof hangs from one long rough-sawn beam.

Later extensions lean against the walls

Like tired foals huddling to their mother.   Inside

And out, it’s a geography of ventures

Tried and used up: abandoned nesting boxes

Line the top floor, sad curls of feather drifting.  

I saw the room in use: a kid supposed

To be learning the farm business gathered eggs. 

His dog, a shepherd, drove the flock to corners

While he collected, calmly jamming back

The furious roosters and the short-legged hens.

Two years he gathered eggs, then left the life

To join a rock band.     Horse-nicked and heifer-chewed,

On the ground floor the stalls hold piecemealed engines,

Moldy seed pots, crates for vegetables.

The metal shed next door housed a prize bull

And a prime beef herd until calamity struck:

Half-sized calves, a dwarfism gene.    The sire

Was barbecued, cows sold, a few small sons

Sent to the university.  One thinks

Of storms and fire, of hoof-and-mouth or markets

Defeating a stout barn and muscular experts—

But the quirk of a molecule!   Herds, flocks and coveys

(They once raised quails) have passed; the denizens 

Stabled here now are big machines, high-tired

And dull in faded green or gray or red:

Tractors, a grain screw, a twenty-clawed rake,

A massive harrow, and looming over all

The bull of the herd, the elephantine gleaner,

Two stories tall, its teeth laid down beside it

Like the old farmer’s false teeth by his bed.  

(The big old red barn in Lansing, New York where my family abnd I lived for some years…)

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