by Matthew Hollis
The day is late, later than the sun.
He tastes the dusk of things and eases down,
and feels the shade set in across the yard.
He never thought there’d be so much undone,
so much in need of planing: the haugh unmown
with its fist of bracken, the splinting of the cattle bar,
the half-attended paddock wall
scribbled with blackthorn and broke-wool.
Perhaps he could have turned the plough for one last till,
be sure, or surer, of where the seeding fell.
But then it’s not the ply that counts, but the depth of furrow,
knowing the take was deep and real, knowing the change was made.
And field by field the brown hills harvest yellow.
And few of us will touch the landscape in that way.
I spent the past few days in the company of plant physiology graduate students and their advisor at the University of Illinois in Champaign. It did my heart good to see the genuine eagerness with which the students approach the rather difficult task of their field research, trying to tease apart the management variables that can unlock the potential for higher sustainable yields in corn and soybeans. The number one factor that influences yield on every crop every year is the one which farmers and graduate students have no control; the weather.
I like this poem, because Hollis captures several truths about agriculture; there is never a time when everything is finished and few understand how a good farmer can “touch the landscape in that way. “
To hear Matthew Hollis read this poem, check out the link below to The Poetry Archive. And while you’re there, listen to another fine poem by Hollis titled: And Let Us Say.