All day he’s shoveled green pine sawdust
out of the trailer truck into the chute.
From time to time he’s clambered down to even
the pile. Now his hair is frosted with sawdust.
Little rivers of sawdust pour out of his boots.
I hope in the afterlife there’s none of this stuff
he says, stripping nude in the late September sun
while I broom off his jeans, his sweater flocked
with granules, his immersed-in-sawdust socks.
I hope there’s no bedding, no stalls, no barn
no more repairs to the paddock gate the horses
burst through when snow avalanches off the roof.
Although the old broodmare, our first foal, is his,
horses, he’s fond of saying, make divorces.
Fifty years married, he’s safely facetious.
No garden pump that’s airbound, no window a grouse
flies into and shatters, no ancient tractor’s
intractable problem with carburetor
ignition or piston, no mowers and no chain saws
that refuse to start, or start, misfire and quit...
…then he says
let’s walk up to the field and catch the sunset
and off we go, a couple of aging fools.
I hope, he says, on the other side there’s a lot
less work, but just in case I’m bringing tools.
~Maxine Kumin from “Chores”
When I pull open the barn doors
and close them again each evening,
as our grandparents did
one hundred years ago,
six rumbling voices
rise in greeting.
We exchange scents,
nuzzle each others’ ears,
rumble grumble back a response.
We do our chores faithfully
as our grandparents once did–
draw fresh water
the pungent mess underfoot,
release an armful of summer
from the bale,
reach under heavy manes
to stroke silken necks.
We don’t depend
on our horses’ strength
and willingness to
to carry us to town
or move the logs
or till the soil
as our grandparents did.
these soft eyed souls,
born on this farm over
two long decades ago,
are simply grateful
for our constancy
morning and night
to serve their needs
until the day comes
they need no more.
And we depend on them
to depend on us
to be there
to open and close the doors;
their low whispering welcome
to the blessings of
living on a farm
ripe with rhythms and seasons,
sunrises and sunsets that keep coming,
as if yesterday, today and tomorrow are
just like one hundred years ago.