Teaching My Boy the A-Word, Rhubarb Festival—Aledo, IL
The least artistic eagle in the history of artistic eagles guards the toy guns and growlers of rhubarb wine and the hundreds of sacred, routered signs: Faith, Family, Love; Keep Standing Right There, You're in My Crosshairs; It's all fun and games at the campfire, 'til someone loses a wiener. And in the round magnifying mirror at the jewelry stand, a statue of Teddy Roosevelt on a statue of a horse needs to look out behind him. We are all closer than we appear as the blues band moans about the end of things. Kiss my apocalypse says my boy. So with rhubarb crisp on my breath and kettlecorn in my teeth, I close my eyes and lean down to kiss the horse's ass in the mirror, my heart full of tart stalks and sugars seizing up. Eagle's eye on me and a sickening thick wine-coat on my tongue, I leave holy lip prints on the glass. I hear the boy or the blues man growl again: "Everyone can see you, but no one knows your name."
Photograph: Thrashing on Troeger Farm, Hinckley, Illinois, 1886
On the post office wall, you appear to have stopped for a mural.
Thomas Hart Benton would have colored you, my great uncles, my greater aunts,
your horses, in sepia and autumn.
He would have coursed his allegories and training
all across the regions of your faces and your fields.
The small, tough world of your love turns up for the thrashing
you give to one another and to the earth in 1886.
A few beasts walk the circle and grain separates
the straw that breaks as it should;
you know from memory how to burn the chaff,
and how to grind and bake grains to sustain
a body of work I will never inhabit. Belief in the future world
comes easy for me, without gnarled limbs or a curved
and unquestioning spine.
I have made no parables, nor have I fed the thousands.
Most of my bread comes to me in perfection. The crusts I break
by hand and dip into chilled, pasteurized milk.
I buy it in loaves as large and distant as your relative heads.
Does this hat make me look Amish?
—another poem for David Hooker
No. It is the tree behind you,
and the large draft horse you
keep in your heart who desires
to work all day and cool himself
all night beneath that very tree.
It is the intricate weaving of scents
in the hair of your mustacheless
beard—fire, red clay, horse shit.
Yes, it is the horse shit by which
the Amish recognize us all as one.