Hay Day

for Barney

The haymow was an oven that July;
And the sky, a livid blue pilot flame
That cooked brow sweat to dirt and poached the eye.
Each greening loaf was fitted as it came:
An elevated gift from fresh-mown fields
Distributed in place to sit and wait
The august fulfillment September yields
To waning moons of October surfeit.

The tractor’s engine snarled its misfires in anger
Past remnant rows of silage, stubble, and chaff.
We rode in on comic towers of hay,
Undivided, unconquered, thirsting to laugh:
The hard bales we bucked to the mow that day
Would lighten with the growing weight of hunger.


  1. Jonathan Webb says

    Evocative and lovely. Thanks.

  2. Cubeland Mystic says

    Hi JOB

    I like poems like this. I like nature. I’d like more.

    Your poems about nature stay with me. There is one from back in the day that you wrote about your wife and you that was posted at Godsbody. Not sure if that was the one that compared Wisconsin to the Shire. There was one that compared Wisconsin to the Shire.

    I am acquainted with this type of work. I know sounds and smells etc. I like the sound that a bale of alfalfa makes when it hits the ground from the back of a truck. I like the smell when you break it open.

    • CM,

      Thank you – coincidentally, I like these sorts of poems too, especially when they work out well.

      Have you ever run across John Clare? He was an early to mid 19th century poet, wrote mostly about his rural English coutnryside and the flora and fauna therein. We wound up going mad, which is apropos of nothing – except perhaps the proclivities of nature poets…

      Here’s a good example of his work:

      By John Clare (1793–1864)

      The thistledown’s flying, though the winds are all still,
      On the green grass now lying, now mounting the hill,
      The spring from the fountain now boils like a pot;
      Through stones past the counting it bubbles red-hot.

      The ground parched and cracked is like overbaked bread,
      The greensward all wracked is, bents dried up and dead.
      The fallow fields glitter like water indeed,
      And gossamers twitter, flung from weed unto weed.

      Hill-tops like hot iron glitter bright in the sun,
      And the rivers we’re eying burn to gold as they run;
      Burning hot is the ground, liquid gold is the air;
      Whoever looks round sees Eternity there.

      There are two poems that come to mind when you mention comparison of Wisconsin to Middangeard. There’s “Valhalla,” which I wrote to my wife, and there’s the second and 23rd parts of the “Epithalamium” (“Wisconsin is middle earth to a child…”) which I posted here:


      and here:


      I seem to remember you were rather taken by “Lyrics to Daphne” and “Aspens” too.

      Hope this helps…


      • Cubeland Mystic says

        Aspens are my favorite tree next to the great Mallorn tree. Thank you for the posts.

        What I like about poetry is its ability to capture an instant in time with words. Lots of beautiful words. I think a lot about Eliot’s Four Quartets

        Footfalls echo in the memory
        Down the passage which we did not take
        Towards the door we never opened
        Into the rose-garden. My words echo
        Thus, in your mind.
        But to what purpose
        Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
        I do not know.
        Other echoes
        Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
        Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
        Round the corner. Through the first gate,
        Into our first world, shall we follow
        The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.
        There they were, dignified, invisible,
        Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,
        In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,
        And the bird called, in response to
        The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
        And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
        Had the look of flowers that are looked at.
        There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.
        So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,
        Along the empty alley, into the box circle,
        To look down into the drained pool.
        Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,
        And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
        And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
        The surface glittered out of heart of light,
        And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
        Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
        Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
        Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
        Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
        Cannot bear very much reality.

        This poem never leaves me. It is always in my mind. It fused into my DNA. I wish it would go away and leave me alone, but it always lurking in the background reminding me how fleeting life is.

        • There are few better psychic tatoos that I can think of to suit the modern monastic. “Too much,” indeed.

          Eliot and Pound will always be the lion in the path, but Eliot, I think, especially so.

          I have my own pet theory about lyric poetry. Aristotle never wrote about it (he did only tragedy, comedy and epic), I think, because it did not deal with the very Greek world of action but with the I woul almost say unmanly world of “undertaking.” That is, while the other three genres are immitations of an action, only lyric is more thoroughly an imitation of an undergoing or a passion, an emotion. It is for this reason that, as you rightly point out, lyric is most concerned with time, with finding that “still point of the turning world” that Eliot speaks of.

          I once had a notion to write a PhD on this theory; but now I’m having more fun raising kids and watching the cows in the field…


          • Cubeland Mystic says

            The purpose of contemplation, the monastic drive, is to find that still point. It is elusive.

            I think your thesis would be marvelous. I’ve not really thought that much about it, but how would Plato fair in your Thesis?

            We only have what we have, but I understand that Aristotle was a heck of a good writer. Maybe we are missing his major work on lyric poetry. Maybe metaphysics itself was that work.

            Side note, I’ve talked to some heavyweight teachers and they did not know that Aristotle’s works are crib notes. We don’t have his actual stuff or very little of his actual stuff. I running on memory but back in the day my prof told me (who was an actual expert) that the Aristotelian Cannon are lecture notes or notes of some kind. There is very little of his actual writing. I checked this a couple years ago, and my memory holds true. I am still willing to be set straight on the matter if you’d like to dig around. I might be out of context or some other level of misunderstanding.

            • You’re right, as far as I know, about Aristotle’s texts being students’ notes. I guess he did far more walkytalky than writeytightey.

              But no matter, as a product of the Great Books and the New Critics, when I refer to “Aristotle,” I’m referring to the extant texts. My speculation as to why we don’t have a book on “lyric” is just that – a guess more than anything. Umberto Eco to the contrary, there are some scholars who doubt that the book of comedy actually existed. I’ve also read a theory which holds that there was no consideration for the lyric because everything Aristotle would have said about it – and did say about it (recall, in his poetics, he does spend some time on the dithyramb, the rhythms most fitting for the flute, etc.)is already contained in the Poetics. (Interestingly enough, the poet will find at least as much use, if not more, from his Rhetoric, but I digress.)

              You make a good point about his Metaphysics, except that as a Greek he wouldn’t have been interested in the “stuff” – what he calls “thought” in the Poetics – in the lyric as he would be the craft. Nonetheless, I think contemplation is at the heart of the lyric in a way it is not for tragedy, comedy or epic. A friend of mine who is gunning for his PhD, in fact, is trying to write something about Aristotle’s proto-views on the contemplative life. I’d think you’d eat that up.

              As for Plato, many think he was the enemy of poets. I always say, if that’s the case, why did he write in poetic form – (“poesis”= a making)? The dialogue is a fiction, and therefore falls under the category of poetry for the Greek. It’s said he also wrote poetry, but I can’t vouch for that. That said, in the Republic and elsewhere, I think Socrates (as opposed to Plato) was more concerned with porn and blasphemy showing up in poetry precisely because he understood poetry’s power over the soul. But there are smarter men than I who can vouch for this as well. Suffice it to say that I would no doubt be looking at Plato, perhaps as a dialectical starting point.


  3. Jonathan Potter says

    I like the poached eye and the comic towers of hay and just about everything else in this. And now we have a seminar going on here in the comments that some future scholar of the comboxes will unearth — if the world isn’t burned up by then (viz. Frost’s “Fire and Ice”). But even so, nothing will be lost. A priest I trust told me that once, claiming to have got it from Aquinas, and I’ve held onto it ever since.

  4. Wonderful stuff. And the tag is great.

    re: dialectical starting points, it’s worth noting that the pre-Socratics wrote in verse. Most of them, anywayl—although it wasn’t lyric, but epic. Dactylic hexameter, at any rate.

  5. Southern Expat says

    Farma virumque cano.
    Pharma virumque cano.
    Agricolae? virumque cano?

    Regardless, mirabile dictu and that’s all the Latin I remember.

    You’re real smart, JOB. You need to finish up that book.

  6. Thanks to you all. I was delighted to stumble across the comic towers too, Jonathan.

    Thought of you, Quin, when I put that tag down – so it hit its mark.

    quodsi me lyricis vatibus inseres,
    sublimi feriam sidera vertice…
    and all that, SEP.


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