A Poetry Picnic

Working in the Rain
by Robert Morgan

My father loved more than anything to
work outside in wet weather. Beginning
at daylight he’d go out in dripping brush
to mow or pull weeks for hog and chickens.
First his shoulders got damp and the drops from
his hat ran down his back. When even his
armpits were soaked he came in to dry out
by the fire, make coffee, read a little.
But if the rain continued he’d soon be
restless, and go out to sharpen tools in
the shed or carry wood in from the pile,
then open up a puddle to the drain,
Working by steps back into the downpour.
I thought he sought the privacy of rain,
The one time no one was likely to be
out and he was left to the intimacy
of drops touching every leaf and tree in
the woods and the easy muttering of
drip and runoff, the shine of pools behind
grass dams. He could not resist the long
ritual, the companionship and freedom
of falling weather, or even the cold
drenching, the heavy soak and chill of clothes
and sobbing of fingers and sacrifice
of shoes that earned a baking by the fire
and washed fatigue after the wandering
and loneliness in the country of rain.

My Father’s Lunch
by Erica Funkhouser

Saturday afternoon,
he’d sit at the kitchen table
in khakis and a workshirt.
White napkin, a beer, the serrated knife.
Pieces of prosciutto or headcheese
or kippered herring
layered on slabs of black bread.

Outside, the ripe hayfields
or the stacks of shutters
or the forest needing to be cleared
or the snow needing to be pushed aside
lay still as they waited for him
to finish his lunch.

For now he was ours,
whether he smelled of chokecherry,
tractor oil, or twine.
He’s washed his hands
with brown naphtha soap
and splashed water onto his face
and shaken it off like a dog.
He’d offer more ham, more bread
to anyone who sat down.

This was work, too,
but he did it slowly, with no impatience,
not yet reminding the older boys
that he’d need them later
or asking the smaller children
if we’d stored the apples
or shoved last year’s hay
out of the wonderful window
to nowhere.

This was the interlude
of nearly translucent slices,
of leaning back in the smooth wooden chair
and wiping white foam from his lip
as the last beads of beer rose calmly
to the surface of the glass.
We could see it was an old meal
with the patina of dream
going back to the first days
of bread and meat and work.

All our lives, my brothers,
my sister, and I will eat
this same meal, savoring
its provisional peace,
like the peace in the grain room
after we’d scooped the grain
from the bins, and the sticky oats
and the agitated flakes of bran
had slipped back down into the soft valleys
where they would remain
until it was time to feed the animals again.

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