A MID-WESTERN SUMMER
The heat’s too much for the farmer in the field,
even the tractor is more like a tired horse than machinery –
someone he knew died on a day like this,
the fluids drained out of him,
his face like a peeled tomato.
His wife drips sweat on the hen feed,
or in the kitchen sink,
or on the floor of a parlor dark as a funeral home –
no attempt to fix herself up,
even though that’s her husband panting down the hill.
Windows wide open but the house still feels enclosed,
even for the children, hijinks reduced to lethargy,
the television too scorching to watch,
books much too heavy to open,
even toys as joyless as a box of nails.
The bottom of the well is cool at least,
its waters a modest miracle in times of searing drought
and a sun as cruel as the witchfinder-general,
but its touch is more memory than relief,
of a time when its cooling thread was unneeded.
No clouds on the horizon, no relief in the forecast,
and that banker’s smile can only hold for so long.