Top 10 Reasons to Keep the Farm

The husky, dry-rubbed spice of the nut meat
of a black walnut harvested from the base
of its tree. Peel away the green, fibrous outer.
Crush in the vise grips of a steel cracker
that skull-nut for its secret I would pry loose.

Looking face-to-face with beef cattle. Tails
swishing a metronome on the rhythm
of their life. Flies, like a living chain mail
on their flanks, undulate with each hoof stamping
adjustment, each sweep of their heads,
always keeping one eye sideways staring
at the movement of the herder’s hands.
There is so much knowing from where
our pleasures come
in this moment heavy with slaughter.

The “Century Farm” sign
on this side of the barn.
Single ownership. My roots.
From whence I was cast
into space. Bones, bones, bones
what do you roll?

The hard, cold stones
of well water in my mouth.

All of the names
of my grandfather’s cattle written
in pencil on the back of the milk house door:
name, date of birth, the day’s temperature.
The family chronicle.
Ledger of profit and loss.

The summer air is a promise of rain.
Is a coat with trails down my back.

I can hear a cascade of the hard shell
of a corn seed crack for the milky interior,
wet, glistening, pale green to rise
against the dirt, push it aside just enough
to pierce like a slight glint above ground.
Today the whole field enraptured
with those small eruptions.

The thousand-acre industrial farm
adjacent to ours is hungry.
Their new barbed wire border fence rows
sharpen the glare in my e.

My grandfather gave to the Italian POWs
the harvest season away from their cells
in the nearby military prison.
They laughed in the sun and spoke kindly
in some other tongue to my mother.
They raised their eyes
to the sun because it looked upon fields
they knew. Field work
is an easy translation. Needs
make easy compromises
with corn turning on the stalk.

My mother grew up here.
Gone seven years.
I can’t let this other wire snap
from the sound board
and curl into itself making
this song wobble uncertainly.

Photo by Angelina Litvin.

Eric W. Schramm

Eric W. Schramm lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan and works for the University of Michigan. His poems have appeared in Gargoyle Magazine, Gyroscope Review, New Zoo Poetry Review, The Literary Review, The Louisville Review, The Potomac, and The Wisconsin Review, among others.