Farmer John Becomes a Naturalist

Sunset Paddle by Gillian Foster

Does counting butterflies equal
work? I’ve been delighted by the reds
and purples, and awakened by a flick
upon my fingertips.

I’ve heard answers back
when I call to the birds. Is that not more than
you receive from your husband?
I find the silence less disturbing here than
in the cab of a Massey.
The purity of wetland air teases
the heron to tread on the river.

Pardon me, for being
Romantic. You see,
I’ve shoveled the dung and spread the hay,
called the dead stock, burned the dead cock,
hit my thumb more times than I can remember,
and I always remember where I put the gun.

They built a grain shed in 3 weeks,
but I was out picking orchids.
Sawed and nailed the frame,
but I was lifting rocks for milk snakes.
Steel shingles, 20 ft. high,
but I was – wasn’t there.

If I take notes and pictures, I’ll remember –
and pocket the feel of baby swallows and crayfish.

Sucking through the mud,
he found the world he was looking for
away from the stench of manure,
away from tireless hours in the combine
He found his soul.
He’d been hiding it since he left college in ’69.