Ploughed in

 

They ploughed this land in March. Back then, it lay
Dark, heavy, full of winter rain, and turned
In thick, slow-breaking waves. Spring baked the clay
To bricks and horse-heads when the sun returned.
They worked it down somehow and, fingers crossed,
Drilled wheat and waited. May breathed savage heat
On helpless shoots. By month’s end, all was lost,
Each lifeless leaf a limp flag of defeat.
And so they let it go. The big John Deere
Came armed with power harrow to the field.
They reaped an early, empty harvest here:
Brown dust and diesel fumes the only yield.
To start, to break new ground, takes guts and will.
But knowing when to quit is harder still.

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3 thoughts on “Ploughed in

  1. Nick, around New Mexico, just a couple of hours drive south of Continental Divide, the largest fire in the state’s history is raging uncontrollably. We have not had rain for months, and Ethel, for the first time in her life, cannot even get lettuce to grow though she waters it everyday.
    Ethel, having been raised on a dairy farm, is an inveterate gardener, and it does take courage to break new ground, especially in an area where brown dust is too often the only yield. But some corn and beans came up today, so maybe there is hope. I’m hoping that she does not have to quit, but can still wrest a small crop.
    This sonnet absolutely spoke to those spirits up here in New Mexico where the smoke in thick, rain, and even clouds, are non-existence, and the farmers and ranchers have not clue about what can be done other than to pray for rain.
    The key thing about this sonnet, though, is its language, which is magnificent.

    • It’s truly a great thrill to hear that my poems have life and meaning in other lands than this, Tom. I feel that my view is very parochial – indeed, literally insular – sometimes, and it’s really encouraging when little scenes of Sussex life find a resonance in your Big Country over there. We’re getting some rain now (right in time for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee festivities, naturally) and things are looking greener; heree’s hoping the weather turns a kinder face on Ethel’s garden soon. N.

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