Just Before Dawn

From Selections Potato Soup. The Backwaters Press. 2003.

Just before dawn the great blue heron
glides its bony frame into the dusty light,
flapping slow above the russet field,
giant harvester inching through the rows,

its operator my father, perhaps,
pulling an ancient combine
behind an even older John Deere,
thin brown arms propped over its wheel,
his lungs wheezing, wiping his nose
with a rolled-up sleeve.

I can see his seedcap and work denims,
this scene replayed slowly ten thousand times,
following him after dark into the kitchen,
milking and feeding and fixing complete,

at the sink stripped to his boxers and undershirt,
washing with Lava the day’s grit off
his leathery face and arms,
aroma of supper and sweat and soap,
his old-fashioned wire-rims and old country
references, hold-over from the last century,

not embarrassing me now—
flying above it all,
settling down onto shallow water,
body erect, senses alert, all alone.

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