Poems by Kevin Casey

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Strawberry Mulching

by Kevin Casey

From Canary Fall 2015

Kevin lives in Maine by the banks of Black Stream and enjoys hearing it fall toward the Piscataquis River on its way to find the sea.

The flat bed rumbled like a lobster boat,
while the foreman heaved another bale of straw
from its back onto the frost-gripped ground.
Flanneled and steaming in the pale, fall morning,
the team of us picked and pried at the twine-tied

bale with our pitchforks like weary birds,
then tossed and scratched a separated mat
of straw across the clumps of rust-edged leaves
and runners reaching for their own plot of soil.
A boy’s first job and eager to please,

I felt the weight to save each plant along
my row -- each mother and tethered child --
from the scorching winter winds to come.
But the foreman, seeing me fall behind,
took the smooth ash handle from my grasp

and, throwing a patch that flattened jade pleats,
said, ‘We don’t have time to be so careful.’
Three quick scratches, and he ratcheted forward
with those cold, rigid tines. Three more drags, leaving
gaps in the thatch to leak green up to the sky.

And this is the way with work since then,
whether both drudgery and diversion --
that time will take the care from my hands,
while plans trail behind in half-tended rows,
with each fading day growing shorter.

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