Farmer

Once, I was a farmer
who worked the wealth
of the earth, those soft dark
layers lying just beneath reality.
From tiny seeds cradles in warmth
in blackness, I coaxed free shoots, roots
to see the coolness of hidden water. I hired
a ploughman like Du, with a thick and timeless
wedge who knew when and how to upturn
furrows just deep enough for life to open
but not so shallow that winds scattered
secrets into the sky. I ploughed high fields
that faced the sun and gathered rain before
passing the gift down to rivers, troughs,
and turning wheels. The moon
guided my planting. I knew its pull,

its strength and when it shrank from light.
From darkness came the quickening,
like a clock’s spring perched on the cusp
of eruption, that with one more second
churns the slender blade through a final
invisible layer to release all that it becomes,
to suddenly, silently explode. Thousands
of seeds settled into newness before growing

three times, no! ten times faster than other
farmers’ seeds. Trees filled my slopes, first
and foremost a huluppu that I planted
with my hand, that I planted with my foot,
that grew taller than any tree. I climbed it–
a farmer knows how to climb!–to sit amid
its crown. My maples oozed with sugar, my pines
burst with protective cones while my huluppu

spoke. Bees visited fruit blossoms, floated
among flowers in summer’s feral fields. Once,
I was a farmer. I didn’t control the Earth,
but listened to Her stories first told thousands
of years ago to people who could hear Her voice,
understood. On my farm, the horns of cows
were pointed and full, their milk, sweet and thick.
My shepherd, my Dumazi, filled the meadows

with sheepfolds; with his staff he protected
flocks from storms above, from wolves below,
oversaw the shearing of ewes just before the birth
of lambs. He led new mothers from wind, leaving
fleece to be washed and picked, carded, pulled
into roving, spun. Under winter’s glare when pines
trapped wind as serenading songs the loom
thundered, needles hummed. But long before

in summer sun, wheat stalk after wheat stalk
bowed to Utu, ripened for dough I kneaded
with sinewy arms, callused hands. Just before
frost crept in, I tasted the moon in fruit
and melons that dripped juice and seeds.
My apples hung heavy from sturdy branches,
dropped to drum the earth. As the sun’s rays
weakened, I began my harvest; the spirit

of the corn wakened with ten thousand,
thousand kernels each with its own life
within. I took them from the Earth,
spent the day in plenty, celebrated
with eight songs of praise, saved
the seeds to plant in the dark
cradle just beneath reality,
and danced.