The Copper Husk Allegory

The sky is muffling
the field with flakes;
the farmhouse is still
against a voiceless hill.
The wind rushes in
through the open kitchen door,
and snow drifts over the chairs.

One farmer is hanging in the loft;
his limp neck stiffens in the cold.
One is sitting in the darkened barn;
the motor's singing him to sleep.
Another's mixing insecticide with tea,
and only one has sought the way of pain:
he's cut two eyeholes in a sack
and wears it over the northern hill.
They've squandered the blood of a summer
with no reimbursement from coin-colored grain
that bought them women and heat in December,
new gabardine and Dodges in their dreams.
Today those dream are hanging from a rope
and dead beside a car
and drowned in DDT.

One this morning, it seems,
they went out singing,
their sickle-edges honed,
the corn crib cleared and ready.
Chicago--half wine, half-woman--
lay half a week away.
Then the reaper hit the stalks:
it clamored to a halt.
The plants they seeded without seeing,
watered daily but never touched,
were not corn-stalks at all
but corn-shaped copper weeds.
Somehow copper had replaced the chlorophyl,
the greenish copper of neglected statues,
the copper of dead pennies.

Ghosts and bodies, corpses and the wind,
the farmers flew in separate paths
through cold and snow and lunacy,
their every vein and pocket lavished
on the clanging crop of bones
that never got a chance to break their teeth,
but felled their bodies in the empty snow.

Published in the chapbook, The Copper Husk Allegory (New York: Raw Sky Productions, 1971).

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