Sunday Poem

D.A. Powell

soon, industry and agriculture converged
                            and the combustion engine
sowed the dirtclod truck farms green
                                          with onion tops and chicory

mowed the hay, fed the swine and mutton
                            through belts and chutes

cleared the blue oak and the chaparral
                                          chipping the wood for mulch

back-filled the marshes
                            replacing buckbean with dent corn

removed the unsavory foliage of quag
                                          made the land into a production
made it produce, pistoned and oiled
                            and forged against its own nature
and—with enterprise—built silos
                                          stockyards, warehouses, processing plants
abattoirs, walk-in refrigerators, canneries, mills
                                                      & centers of distribution

it meant something—in spite of machinery—
                            to say the country, to say apple season
though what it meant was a kind of nose-thumbing
                                                      and a kind of sweetness
                            as when one says how quaint
knowing that a refined listener understands the doubleness

and the leveling of the land, enduing it in sameness, cured malaria
as the standing water in low glades disappeared,
                                                                   as the muskegs drained
typhoid and yellow fever decreased
                                          even milksickness abated
thanks to the rise of the feeding pen
                            cattle no longer grazing on white snakeroot

vanquished:   the germs that bedeviled the rural areas
                                                                   the rural areas also
vanquished:   made monochromatic and mechanized, made suburban
the illnesses we contract are chronic illnesses:   dyspepsia, arthritis
             heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, asthma
                            chronic pain, allergies, anxiety, emphysema
                                          diabetes, cirrhosis, lyme disease, aids
             chronic fatigue syndrome, malnutrition, morbid obesity
hypertension, cancers of the various kinds:   bladder bone eye lymph
                            mouth ovary thyroid liver colon bileduct lung
                                          breast throat & sundry areas of the brain
we are no better in accounting for death, and no worse:     we still die
we carry our uninhabited mortal frames back to the land
                            cover them in sod, we take the land to the brink
             of our dying:   it stands watch, dutifully, artfully
enriched with sewer sludge and urea
                                                      to green against eternity of green
hocus-pocus:   here is a pig in a farrowing crate
                                          eating its own feces
human in its ability to litter inside a cage
                            to nest, to grow gravid and to throw its young

I know I should be mindful of dangerous analogy:
             the pig is only the pig
                            and we aren’t merely the wide-open field
                                          flattened to a space resembling nothing

you want me to tell you the marvels of invention?   that we persevere
that the time of flourishing is at hand?   I should like to think it

meanwhile, where have I put the notebook on which I was scribbling

it began like:
                       “the smell of droppings and that narrow country road . . .”