Farmhand

 
photo by Stephen O'Shea

photo by Stephen O'Shea

I.

Late again, I swerve through thick green Pennsylvania
streets, trees shadows dappling my dress
with late autumn sun. The shortcut lane
swings me through my old neck of the woods:
WYNORR FARMS, the fading sign pleads
from its rusting post. Three years on,
and my soft hands still clench the wheel.

II.

Sticky Southern summers: heat rose
between the paint-chipped barns. I wrestled
corn off stalks, hoisted fifty pound sacks over
my shoulders, felt my arms firm up.

Summers of rising early, greeting the dawn
with a weed-whacker. We shoveled
sheep shit together, twelve guys and
me, wore the same stained T-shirts
day after day.

First learned to drive in a John Deere;
couldn’t steer proper so I crushed grass,
bowled the hay hedges, gas smoke fogging
my swerving wake.

Ate with the men. Stained my jeans
with fence paint. Stole bruised peaches from the cold room,
pressed the split tomatoes no one wanted between
my teeth til they burst. Seeds, and sweet.

My favorites were thunderstorm nights, when we ran in
from the fields staring up, ducked under the farmstand
with the pretty girls who worked sales.
We nicked whoopie pies.
Pounding rain.
No customers.

We ate corn raw; sweet candy
in our callused hands.

III.

Three years went. I moved out,
the farm passed on. Downpours for weeks
drowned the corn, the sheep shit,
the farmers’ will. Arthritis,
children who wanted easier lives.

Late again. On the wheel,
my soft hands clench, crave seeds, and sweet.


Kathryn Ailes is a US-UK Fulbright Scholar at the University of Strathclyde researching themes of nationalism within poetry responding to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. She enjoys writing for the written page as well as performing “slam” poetry at venues in Edinburgh and Glasgow, recently with the collective Loud Poets. She blogs about creative practice on her website: here. (You can also find her poem 'Driveways': here.)