Three Poems

by Nick Norwood

Dead Cow

From a distance: the herd,
slow-spinning galaxy.

Then this: redbrown splotch
lone against the grass.

He cranks the tractor,
drags her to a corner.

Her sisters chew.
Piled with castoff trailer tires

she is kerosened, lit,
becomes briefly fire blossom.

What killed her oxidizes
till she gutters out, smolders

three days. Buzzards stay away.
Insects wait for rain.

Windblown, bone,
in six months she is

pasture gall.
Next year, welt.

Field Shed

Wedged between the ribbed, rhomboid shapes
of a pair of cotton patches,
a corrugated canteen, its back
to the farm-to-market road, its maw
gaped to the furrows. Inside
a tumble of five-gallon cans, quart jugs.
Fifty-five-gallon drums, like stanchions,
stationed in a corner. Their death fumes
channel under the slant roof
like copperheads under a quilt. Come home
on the cotton farmer’s clothes.
He walks in a vapor, drags it like a mean spirit
a half step behind. Where he stops it hovers.
His father’s harness hangs on a wall.
An empty oil drum holds twenty-seven
red-handled hoes, chewed-down, dry-cracked.
Dirt floor. No windows.
Outside, ditched in the weeds:
tractor parts, plow, thresher.
Yellow jackets angle under the eaves.
A stray’s kitten fumbles with a bottle cap.


The throb of the tractor’s diesel carrying over the fields.
From the house, all afternoon, the steady lope.
She puts the leg back on a chair.
Writes a thank you to her niece.
At six, she eats a cold supper and thinks
out the window.
The engine drones.
She knows, by ten, it’s something
and phones their son, who comes
with a flashlight and follows the sound.
On a gentle rise in the meadow
he circles the tractor, plays his beam across and back,
then draws it close. Closer.
The old man had reached into the baler,
to fix, fiddle with, adjust,
without killing the motor.
Running fast idle six, seven hours.
Till two in the morning men stand
in the freshcut, cast long shadows
in a circle of searchlights.
Voices kept low in the quiet.