Memory of Kuhre

—killed by a tractor, August 1969

hot days the farm
does not move
far off
a cowbell far off
his tractor sound
caught in trees
and free again

I am there unsurprised
by my skinny arms
raking in a field
I think maybe it will rain

but the clouds
move slowly they
are in another country
at dusk the cows move back
into the field like clouds
they dream themselves
walking shaking flies
from their sleep

mornings the woman
who talks to the hens
throwing seeds

and it is me listening
deep into the tractor’s
ponderous heart
for a spark
pulling the flywheel

I think
(it starts
up in such a rage)
how can the old man
hanging crutches
on the gearshift
climbing slowly
up its side
not be shaken down

but each day
Kuhre just lurches off
into the tractor’s noise

and oh it is such
a great slow place
the cows moving back
the clouds far as continents
his tractor circling
all my afternoons
and I am perhaps thinking
his eye is gone

at supper the woman crazy
with questions
I am thinking it

still Kuhre sits
silent and one-eyed
as his old barn
and he never answers
he never

riding out past cows
dreaming him riding
or it could be Kuhre’s
strange shut face
going by me
while I rake

until I think part
of him knows something
it is night or down
in a dim green silo
corn raining all around
I rise slowly upward
toward the light

and the morning rises
it will be a hot day
far off
the tractor sound
continues and the clouds
just continue

and it is me
watching the woman among
the white shrieking
of the hens throwing seeds
talking to them all

-Wesley McNair