Michael McGriff

The Field

1. The Scar On My Father’s Chest
As a child, the surgeons went in
to unkink his heart’s twisted chain.
They left a welder’s hasty bead,
a moon rotted away to a pink crescent.
At 38 he wakes like the tractors.
Ready to cut the morning’s throat.
2. Photograph: My Grandfather, His Sons, the Hayfield
The sun is a madman running
along the tines of the pitchfork
slung over my father’s wiry shoulder.
He’s too young for the scar on his chest,
the field’s too small for June
knuckling down, for older brothers
knuckled under. My grandfather,
dusty haymaker, leans on the scythe,
its sharp crescent in the grass
like an ear to the rail,
like an animal on its back
in a dry creek bed.
3. Mercy
Under the half-light of the tool shed
my father’s lost beneath the tractor,
the white-knuckled lover
of broken machines.
He packs the new bearings,
dark fingers smooth the grease bead.
I hold the light and hand down the tools.
The afternoon holds its dust by the collar
against the shed. Having the right tools,
he tells me, is having angels-of-fucking-mercy.
I hold the light and hand down the tools,
my father’s blind hands lifting to meet them.
4. Sister Dust
Mary Ann, on our backs we spread
our arms and legs in the field’s tall grass
until we made a place where angels
had landed. Against July.
Against July with its mouth wired open,
its heat spilling out. Against this
we made tunnels in the dust.
Lived with red racers, field mice.
Let the grasshoppers bubble their blood
on our fingers. The world of grass
was half wind, half tractor.
The world of grass was our mother
at the field’s edge calling our names,
the piano wires of her voice,
her dusk-lit hands awash in the same
light holding our father to the long thatch
as the tractor blades rumbled toward us.
We were angels, birds of dust,
new species of light. We drifted
above the power lines, the field,
the blue logging ridges chained
to the sky. We left the cruel wind
clawing its own pale dust.
Remember, nothing there
was imagined: the field’s old fence
is still a barbed-wire crown,
the day’s usable light goes thin
with its faint beading of stars.
The blades beneath our father
lift those angels to dust.

Michael McGriff
The Field first appeared in Poet Lore, Spring/Summer 2004.
Poem, copyright © Michael McGriff, 2005
Appearing on the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2006, From the Fishouse