Twyla Hansen

Pastoral

From Dirt Songs: A Plains Duet. Backwaters Press, 2011.

I see myself on the dusty farmstead in handed-down denims,
clutching a hairless doll, watching my young older brother.

The air is thick with summer, the wind laden with topsoil,
around us discarded implements, rusted fence-wire, ragweed.

He’s shinnied up a silver maple and knocked down his prize,
his boredom-fighter: the grass-and-feather nest of sparrows.

I am unable to speak up, to articulate what is wrong or right.
In that sweaty afternoon I watch him take aim, wind up

his best overhand, fling one after another new hatchlings—
small smackings—against the back of the empty brooder house.

Soon he will spend untold hours on a tractor in the fields.
Why does darkness haunt me, what can I gain from it now?