Pastoral

Betty Adcock

BPR 43 | 2016



for Steven

Empty hayrick, nineteenth-century barn
fields unfurling toward late spring, light rain
in the unbroken dark, a little thunder
way off toward the west horizon.

New green tractor beside the decrepit one
he still uses because a wren has built in the new
machine and he refuses to disturb her.
Red pickup still ticking beside the house.

He’s just come from last shift at the welding job
he has to keep if he would save this farm.
He’s young, married not long, his wife
out this night with girlfriends, gone

until late. He steps into the brief gold
of the porch light, whistles up the dog, commences
in small rain—the errand he’s bent upon.
Perhaps a goat is stuck in the back pasture fence,

or something to do with the pond he dug with his father
who died last year, their great project stocked at last
with catfish, bream, a few bass. There’s some thing
he means to tend, or he’s just walking the land, checking,

the way lovers do. Perhaps he hums, or speaks
to the dog dancing beside him or leaping ahead,
and the dark sky comes closer until the dog barks to call
attention and they turn back toward the house that was

his great-grandfather’s, now his to rescue, and with it
the hundred acres he has chosen to be his life.
Already he has rebuilt the fences, keeps chickens,
breeds goats, plants a garden and a sweet potato field.

What might he be thinking as the storm breaks
into sticks of flame above him? His wife
hears weather news and stops the car
on a roadside, waiting out hard rain.

In a few minutes she can turn for home. Nothing
of what is the case is in her mind or can be so.
Maybe she thinks she’ll tell him how it looked
almost like one fire, the streaks of lightening

close as clashing swords, and the sound a roar.
She’s almost there. The house-lights, fogged
by diminishing rain, are all on.
What she can’t imagine is why the doors

are all open, the dog drenched and running in and out,
her husband not answering her calls into a now
perfectly still black night in which he is facedown
in pasture mud, secured by the sky’s deadbolt

like the hand of God, the cloud’s bright nail—while
his wife calls until almost dawn with the rest
of the searchers, and the wren stays settled
warm on the nest.