Monday, January 26, 2009


By the end of winter every stall
Had a compressed foot of straw and manure.
Swallows swooped in
Through the open doors, with beak-fulls
Of mud from the frog-ringed pond edge,
Patching rims to hold this year’s eggs in -
Half moon nests stuck to the cobwebby rafters.
The sliver new moon was there in the west,
In air both warm and cool.
After each load, the tractor hauls it
Out in spirals round the field. The tines fling
Funk that falls like manna on the quickening
Grass. The farmer’s arms throb with a satisfied ache,
His chest takes the spring in like a pipe draw, glazed
With sweat his new exposed skin is luminous
As sunset reddened snow. One more time around the
Hill he goes, and parks it in the barn.
Now he can stand, for a spell, and
Contemplate the finished task - listen to
The steady munching, the calve tongues scrapping
In the troughs, the froglets cloud of bell peeps
by the branch, the swallows arcing in the dusk,
and slowly walk back to the house.

There is no greater purpose
Than shoveling shit.

After this
We aspire no higher than to become soil.


Cathy said...


Dan Dutton said...

Thanks! I'm feeling at times like the very narrow neck of a funnel. The material of You'll Always Come Back, that I'm hoping to distill via this poem, is sprawled out through time and space in so many directions.

The Pennsylvania Dutch/Palatinate Germans were way in advance of the rest of the US in sustainable farming methods, like soil stewardship & that practice was something my dad understood very well. Manure is the philosopher's stone on this farm!

Bobby has promised me a load for the garden this spring, & I'm hoping I'll be able to help him fork it out of the stalls.

SBD said...

ah, the mysterious of love, time and farming.
Coexisting in this wondrous verse.
I aspire no higher

Mary Beth said...

You’ve captured the soul of the Dairy Farmer!

When I returned to Kentucky this summer, Uncle Dave took me out to what used to be my Grandfather’s diary farm on 31 north of Bardstown. No one answered the door when we knocked, and Dave, being the fearless soul he is, deemed to show me about on his own. The springhouse and smokehouse are still there, but the sharecropper’s cabin has been moved and renovated into something so cure Dave wasn’t sure it was the original. The chickens, pigs, and cattle are gone now. The milking barn and silo, build atop the ruins of an old grist mill, are abandon and overgrown by brier. The main barn is now a fancy horse stables but the tobacco barn was largely untouched! Pieces of Grandfather’s machinery sit were he left them forty years ago. Dave got a big kick out of showing me the manure spreader which still bore a layer of petrified dung. Twas highly amusing to hear a man who works in a firm of 280 lawyers reminisce over his getting covered in flying sh**! Somehow it seemed an appropriate prerequisite to the profession!

Apifera Farm said...

I love this! Being one amongst much manure, of many sizes/shapes and consistencies. I was thinking how important manure is also to help we caretakers of livestock understand what is going on with our animals.

And of course, it being Huck's 4th birthday Saturday [no gifts please], we will let him eat poop for a brief time without yelling at him.