Monday, March 10, 2008

Never Night, Derick Burleson

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He stands beside his father on the Gleaner
gripping the metal rail tight in both hands
staring down into the sun blur of sickle,
clouds of dust and straw and chaff blown behind,
and all the way to the horizon, to the curve
of round earth across the plain, nothing but wheat
and a cloud of dust for each combine cutting.
When wheat fills the machine, his father starts
the auger and a stream of gold pours into
the truck, where he is not allowed to play
since nearly every year a boy falls asleep
in the sun on that pile of gold smelling
of bread in the heat of late June and is
buried alive by his father under
the grain we in those parts of Oklahoma
all lived to raise from red soil. Thirteen hours
the sun spun across the unbroken blue sky,
thirteen hours we and the Gleaner gleaned
until moon rose and dew fell too heavy
down and wet the ripe wheat, and the silence
in that absence of machine was an abyss
only crickets could understand. I see the boy
there on that machine, the sure hands of his father
on the wheel, on the levers that sped or
slowed, raised or lowered to keep the wheat feeding
evenly in. How the boy stares down into
that spin of bright hot steel, of well-oiled blade
against steel cutter bar, the auger whirling,
a steel cylinder pulling fate and will together
where steel fingers grab grain and chaff and straw,
above it all into the metal monster’s
ravenous maw. I watch the boy hold tight
and I hope he will not fall.

Copyright © 2005-2008 Marick Press All Rights Reserved

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"Derick Burleson has given us a far northern book of invitations ("You'd like it here where/it's never night"), which shines with a radiant spirit. It is a work of soul-making." – Edward Hirsch

Derick Burleson's first book, Ejo: Poems, Rwanda 1991-94 won the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry. His poems have appeared in The Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, The Paris Review and Poetry, among other journals. A recipient of a 1999 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, Burleson teaches in the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

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