The farmers talk of Ceres

Corn fields, eastern Kansas. Underwood & Underwood (Publisher). Image courtesy of Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Arts, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection. New York Public Library Digital Collections.

just after sunrise at the Radcliffe CoMart lunch counter,
the day’s work already done.

Been beyond a rough season.
Emerald ash borers come up in the orchards,

gutted plums and cherries.
Acres of dent corn so stem-cankered

every granary in the state is less than half-full.
Old timers calling it an omen,

proof of half-assed faith in earthwork,
saying a field is like a woman—you have to praise her

electric grit if you want her to bloom for you.
But what’s there to praise when the season’s damned

from the get-go, when the floodplain fills
and the ground swells ‘til rotten? There’s no farmer’s prayer

to keep the earth from falling out of love with you.
Give her everything, extra furrowing,

weeks sweating the plough, re-tracing harrowed weeds
for any seed-worthy soil and she can still decide

it’s all for nothing and say, take these dead crops
and be thankful I gave you anything at all.

Samuel Piccone received an MFA in poetry from North Carolina State University. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including The Southeast Review, Nimrod, Southern Indiana Review, and The Minnesota Review. He serves on the poetry staff at Raleigh Review, and currently resides and teaches in Iowa.
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