Christianne Balk


Shorthorns


Heavy-hocked, barrel-bellied,
exhaling billows of steam, they wait
while the corn, wheat, clover,
and potato fields surround us, finished
for the season. We listened to their hooves
shift. Blue tongues lick black shoulders,
impatient horns stab the ground.
Soon Father will open the gate
to where to the last crop sits
sun-softened, stem ends dark, sinking
back into the dirt. For pulling plows,
for yanking oak and hickory grubs
up by the roots, for heaving stumps,
for stopping one night on the way home
from town, for refusing even the buckled ends
of harness reins raising long welts
across their backs lathered by sweat
and rain, for allowing us to grab
their tails, for leading us like blind
children away from the wagon
perched on the edge of the swamp - - -
Father comes, opens the gate.
Bald face moves first, walking
to the biggest pumpkin, lowering
himself to his knees, placing
his broad forehead on top, using
his weight to crack the rind. Still
kneeling, he scoops the mealy flesh
into his mouth, chewing, while the other
oxen watch us, soft-jawed. Father
and I begin our dance, stomping
up and down the rows, crushing the sweet
orange spheres with our boots, and now
they all begin to feed, bending down,
rising up to gaze past the barn
where the yokes, shares, and coulters hang clean
and sharp, past the road to town
over swamps now bridged with sedge sod
tough enough to hold their weight
and the wagons, up and down, lowering
and lifting their heads, bowing to the fields.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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Comments about this poem (Shorthorns by Christianne Balk )

  • Rookie - 234 Points Lawerence Mize (4/15/2014 5:12:00 PM)

    Another wonderful poem. Glad I decided to stop for a visit. This really should have been a ten. So descriptive I could picture the scene in my mind. Loved it. A ten is what you get from me. (Report) Reply

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