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Published: Sun Jul 1 2012
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas

to Cless

When Joe showed up, you were watering the garden and I was
sleeping late. You called me Ms. Van Winkle and we put on our
jeans and long shirts and ran to the field. Jens drove the truck and
nobody said He’s too young, though his brother asked why doesn’t
Jens have to load? The rest of us dragged bales to the back of the
wagon. No longer a work-out queen, I could still lift a sixty-pound
loaf of horse fodder and flop it onto the flat bed, but later I couldn’t
launch one onto the third layer. Get up and stack them so they’ll
ride steady, Joe said, and put the little girls on top. When Nani,
our shy golden lab, got in everyone’s way, you said Nani go home,
but I countered here Nani, it’s okay. Seventy-three bales later—
Dairy-quality, Joe said, worth ten bucks each—he got in the truck.
You sat on the edge of the wagon and called me, patting the space
beside you. I asked What if a falling bale breaks our necks? What
if a bump jams our legs into the road? And sat down. You picked
flakes of hay out of my hair as mountain bluebirds crossed the lane,
their backs flashes of deep sky. We each put an arm around Nani,
who shed all over us all the way to Joe’s, while hay worked its way
through our jeans and scratched our unmentionables. I love you, I
am perfectly happy, I’m sorry I didn’t say. But Joe turned up the
radio and everyone sang All I wanna do is have some fun and I
wanted to tell Sheryl Crow meadowlarks in our alfalfa call all day,
Let’s get you out of that bar.

Susan Elizabeth Howe’s second collection of poems, Salt, will be published this year by Signature Books. She is a professor at Brigham Young University and a reviewer for and contributing editor of Tar River Poetry. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The New Yorker, AGNI Online, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, and elsewhere. She and her husband, Cless Young, live in the small town of Ephraim, Utah. (updated 7/2012)

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