HOMEPLACE (1939-1998)

By Jo Clayton

irrigation ditches squaring the land
alfalfa sweet and purple, barley oats, sorghum
clover with cows grazing, cows staring into distant nothing
sweet potato vines drying on their mounds
sweet corn in rustling rows
     (neighbor boys raid the patches on summer nights,
          cutting plugs into melons to find the ripest one
     neighbor boys wander in the warm dusk,
          hunting pheasant, quail, ducks, doves in and out of season
          rabbits, weasels, gophers, anything that moves,
          finding skunks sometimes--serves them right,
          baby predators with their .22s)
at night, dog packs trotting busy busy in the fields,
     barking at the moon
on irrigation nights, my sister and I waterwatch,
     lie on our backs on the ditchbank, grass tickling our necks, arms, ankles
     listening to the sizzle-pop of the water as it creeps between crop rows
     reading out the constellations, naming stars we know
     talking on and on about the meaning of life and other such profundities

Since then
I've been to college where I learned more about learning
     than I knew before
     but not much else

Since then
I've stood in a classroom supposed to be teaching
     learning more important things than any I
     chanced to be stuffing in my students' heads

Since then
I've sat at a typewriter, then a keyboard
     excavating from my head and gut
     all of the above

Since then I've loved and hurt and given hurt
I've tried some things and failed at most
I've learned this one thing and maybe it's enough

The best time
is dreamtime
is lying on your back on a warm summer night
listening to cool water creep and
talking absurd profundities
with whoever lies beside you
sister, lover, friend

jo clayton

Copyright © 1998-2006, The Estate of Jo Clayton