POEM: “Haymaking”


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EDITOR’S NOTE: One pleasure of publishing a web magazine based in West Nowhereville is hearing back from people actually paying attention. James Cochran wrote in response to my feb11.2021 ‘photopoem,’ “When Hay Bales Speak to You.” He wrote of his experiences baling hay and sent along a poem about that. I put his lightly edited notes about hay and himself in front of the poem. They serve as a welcome insight into the hard work of the ancient art of hay baling, updated with Rube Goldberg contraptions, but with the same old threatening sky. James is a poet living in Charleston, West Virginia, with roots on both sides of the Ohio River (WV and OH)~ Douglas John Imbrogno


Photo by Maksim Shutov on Unsplash

JAMES COCHRAN: Just wanted to send a note to say how meaningful your recent poem/photo essay on hay bales was to me. I felt inspired to join in celebration of this most quotidian and sublime of substances. I grew up farming, and have spent much time in the production and pondering of hay —loose and baled—but little time writing of it. Growing up on a farm, I experienced many different aspects of the material known as hay. The sweaty work of cutting, raking, and baling … The stacking high of the bales on wagons that would sway and creak as they made their way across the fields …The leaping from round bale to round bale after they had been lined up in a row for future use. I especially loved the connection to the hay bale as captured time, sunlight, rain, etc. You are right that the baler is a Rube Goldberg contraption, very prone to problems and failures as well, but a magnificent feat of engineering when functioning correctly. The round baler contains belts that whip around, forming a small cylinder at first. As it travels the field gobbling up the windrow, the round bale becomes larger and larger, eventually expelling this tightly wrapped and spinning packet of time!


Photo by Nikita Ermilov on Unsplash

Haymaking


By James Cochran | feb20.2021

“Make hay while the sun shines” they say,
and we do, circling the field while swallows

dive and swoop to feast on insects we kick up,
inhaling the mingled sweetness of diesel fuel
and honeysuckle. We cut, rake, and bale

till the sun goes down and the dew settles on the fields,
then start again next morning once the dew burns off,

almost finishing as dark clouds build on the horizon

and fat drops of rain cut the dust on the Baler.

That’s the part no one says…
Make hay while the sun shines,

but stop when it starts to rain.


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