Second Cutting
by Amy Nemecek

My dad surveys the south field
from the seat of his Farmall C.
With one eye he watches the west,
where a fist-sized pewter scruff
threatens rain. With the other eye
he gauges a row of cut, crimped
stalks crisping in the heat and rakes
them into sage-gold windrows. The
sun is setting as he hitches the rusty
baler to begin a steady sweep-push-
sweep-push-sweep-push-knot, and
prickly slick squares slide from its
chute to land on dusky stubble. I drive
our smoke-blue Ferguson in low gear
with an empty wagon jouncing behind.

My brothers walk to either side,
heft bales by the twine and pitch
them onto the weathered flatbed.
After each row I depress the clutch,
pausing so they can climb aboard
and order the jumble into solidity.
Chaff coats their tanned torsos,
bootcut Levi’s, and tousled hair,
but above red bandanas that shield
mouth and nose, their itchy eyes
glimmer youth. A sweaty scent
mingles with clean alfalfa, tractor
exhaust, and an August moon that
rises amid cicadas’ crescendo
to silver our lives with its smile.

Photo by Felix Mittermeier. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is a snapshot of a summer evening from my childhood, which I spent roaming every acre of our family’s small hobby farm. Summers were spent either in the vegetable garden growing food for ourselves or in the hayfields growing food for our small menagerie of cows and horses and goats. It was hard work, but it was work we did together, and it gave us all a sense of satisfaction and delight. Those summer nights spent in the fields with my dad and brothers are some of my fondest memories, and being able to convey that joy through these lines brings me joy.

Amy Nemecek author photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Nemecek was awarded the 2021 Paraclete Poetry Prize for her forthcoming book The Language of the Birds (Paraclete Press, 2022). Her poems have appeared in numerous print and online journals, including Presence, Relief Journal, St. Katherine Review, and Whale Road Review. Amy lives in West Michigan and works as a book editor. When she isn’t crafting words, she enjoys taking long walks in nature and spending time with her husband and son.