Harvest Elegy

by Matthew Stokdyk

The farmer shall not plant this field again;
his scythe has mowed the wheat a final time.
His children’s hands have gathered all the fruit
and set a feast inside, though in the field
they let some fall across the furrowed ground
(if not for Ruth, for birds to gather up
and raise the crop unto the endless sky).
The barn is bursting with the hay; the bails
now crowd the rafters, old but standing yet
to hold the final harvest from the field.
The oxen rest their shoulders from the plow;
they shall not till the lot again come spring.
The farmer, now, has left his sickle lay:
no longer shall he sift or winnow, thresh,
or burn the chaff; now he, and th’earth, shall rest
from toil.
The autumn air has chilled the ground
and left it empty for the hungry snow.
The field is flat, each stalk at harvest cut
to gather into sheaves, and so it sprawls
out bare.
But though the field is empty now,
it soon with grass will sway;
it soon with bees
will hum (and every tree around will run
with honey sweet as if they dripped with myrrh);
and soon with flowers all will bloom;
the trees
will spring to life, and horses then will graze
and gnaw at tender leaves and lounge beneath
the vernal shade;
and soon will birds begin
to flock and fill the place with endless song
(and someday might a poet sit and muse
to all the singing, sweet and ever long);
and, too, forgotten seeds shall spring anew—
the wheat, dim gold, will sway with gentle breeze,
and all the earth shall with it wave, a sea
of moving, living fruit and gilded feed.

Two farmers, now, have taken up their grain;
what earth has lost has heaven ever gained.

Originally published in Wisconsin's Best Emerging Poets: An Anthology.

This poem was written shortly after my grandfather passed away. He was a farmer his entire life.

It begins in a loose blank verse and continues to develop sonance until it rhymes.

Matthew Stokdyk © 2018. All rights reserved.