Wednesday Poem

“Nobody asked (the candidate) what makes America great?
What are the metrics?” —Jon Stewart

Photograph, Maryland Agricultural
College Livestock Show, 1924

Blond, wholesome, serene,
thier white shirtsleeves rolled,
these boys in white ducks
keep sleek black hogs at their feet,
hogs cleaner than licorice sticks in the sun.
Five haltered calves are also held
in tandem while their names
and pedigrees are said aloud.

Mostly I think about
the unseen mud and manure, flies
and screwworms, that connect these boys
and their wildest hopes
poised radiant between two wars
while just out of reach of the lens
in their stained bib overalls
stand the farm laborers

greasy with sweat
and undoubtedly black.

by Maxine Kumin
from Nurture
Viking Penguin Books, 1989