We walk the perimeter.
Fields of stubble stretch to the horizon,
each pale stalk protruding from frozen ground
like bone. In fall, cows and crows came, took
and left trampled husks and cobs to whither
as winter moved in, snow falling like ash
on barns and implements and
telephone lines carrying news of the diagnosis
swiftly along from house to house.
Butch said it was the saddest thing
he’d ever heard, his hand, the one
the combine tore two fingers from, gripping
a mug of undrunk coffee.
We approach a leafless wind fall.
Barbed wire gnarls its way
along the edge. We climb carefully
over, balancing our feet on the space
between rusted barbs. We’ve learned
to live here.
The red-tailed hawk appears suddenly, snagged
in a hawthorn tree like a kite. Its wings flap
frantically as we stand with our arms
hanging dumbly at our sides.
You can watch with compassion
as something suffers. You can whisper
a prayer for escape. Hold
your breath, pretend to understand.
The bird can even stop its fighting.
But the fact remains, definite
and unattainable as sky.