Parched and brown as Egyptian papyri,
Wrenched ragged stalks rattle,
Tumble, twisting, tilting;
Week-old stubble on the face of a field,
Remnant of the harvesting razor’s pass.
Broken stems point skyward,
In a thousand accusations of the clouds.
Abreast of the field, the country road
Undulates along a line of rusting wire.
The wind disturbs the corn;
Empty husks rehearse their anxieties,
Rasping shucks whisper their regrets,
Play their nervous allegro
On the quivering strings of a vagrant breeze.
The road turns north. Now I gaze
Abeam at countless furrows in the field,
Sloping to a gentle swale,
Rising toward a ridge. A line of trees,
Patient, knowing, magisterial, their roots
Probe fissures in the bedrock,
And plumb the ancient aquifers of hope.
And so: beneath the crisis of the current,
An older order pulses. The stalks
Align, and face the trees,
Like sunflowers turning toward the light
Or believers turning toward the font,
Barren, brittle, but turning
Toward the promise of a fertile and forgiving sky.
On for a quarter-mile and more,
The cornrows marshal their procession.
Soon enough plowed under,
They are fuel for an unimagined spring.
For now they limn the path that leads
From convocation to commencement
And on to planting once again.