beneath humongous sky
full of anonymous smoke. Sunscreen,
bandanas, in summer wheat we guzzle pop
and pick rye. Our heads throb, grizzled by heat.
A week of sun has pushed our crop
from emerald green to blond.
A storm gives dimension to the sky.
By eight our faces are blanketed
with chaff, the sunflowers stare up
like satellites and we undress fast
but do not kiss in an upstairs bedroom.
We sleep to thunder. We won’t work
the fields tomorrow. I dream of redneck scientists
and megafarms and miles and miles
of wind turbines, each with fiendish
red eye, thumping in the blinkered night.
I sit up damp. My dearest mumbles
Sleep, dammit, and I lie back till I can’t and I rise
to stand at the curtainless pane, and I am
awakened at 2 and again at 4:30 by rain,
by dismembered limbs streaking by—
wires of lightning
light swathes of field, tractors
stagger in the mud.
switchgrass sage aster eastern
gamma alfalfa sumac larkspur
bluestem thistle milkweed iron-
weed bindweed dandelion beard-
tongue dogwood blue wild indigo—
flattened, a mess of nerves.
She clears the sleep from her voice
like cobwebs. By seven-thirty
the sky will break into blue
and soggy smells of straw
will hang, she says. Purple,
unearthed worms will squirm
underfoot. She says at eight
we’ll wade the ditches. Slog
the puddles. Pick up the heads
flung upon the earth.
Jesse Nathan’s poems have appeared in the Nation, jubilat, the American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. He’s working on a PhD in English Literature at Stanford and he’s a founding editor of the McSweeney’s Poetry Series. He lives in California.