Relentless as the season itself,
the gleaning, the thresh,
the yellow Vermeer baler
grinding in the wake
of the lethal haymow, scything
the dogleg on the Watauga shank
of East Tennessee—
clef of ink on the plat.
On a particular August evening,
in sacrificial silence,
the first leaf floats from Billings’ maple.
The first buckeye rends nocturnal
solitude off the black road crown.
Woolly worms take their interminable
walk into winterclad
robes of sooth. Tent worms
sleeve the locust in smoke. In praise
of Stigmata, dogwood berries
bleed. The next day, a Friday,
the 15th, the Feast of the Assumption—
the taking up of the Blessed Mother,
body and soul, into Heaven—
the families who lease the doctor’s land
hay. Come the gloaming valley,
tractors and chuffing baler swoon
aslant the windrows—
well after nightfall, still baling
in the bore of a dozen pickup headlamps.
Outlandish bundles: long grass green;
infant asters, fetal blue; Queen Anne’s lace,
its impersonator, wild carrot;
gentians; pricked orange
purses of day lilies; and colonies,
kingdoms, of snake, vole, dragonfly,
rabbits, whirring ethnographies of insects
—trussed in moonlit whorls
of cylindrical blonde brushstroke.
Crows chant high in white sycamores.
The bales gather vibrato.
Blue mantles of chaff
in the mist off Linville Creek,
the glorious apparition of fireflies
in Our Lady’s tiara, as she rises,
tresses of sorrow, tresses
of praise, from the harvest.