Dust trails behind
plodding black cows off the hills
to water, bellies stretched with calf,
while we drink coffee—
and we are proud of these cows
who grazed uphill to bed
while we drank Tangueray and tonic,
slice of grapefruit instead of lime.
An acquired taste, raising cattle
through years of drought—
a bittersweet love affair
with the ground that sustains us.
We know her every crease
and wrinkle, and which leak water—
all of her magic spots
forever branded in our brains.
We had water enough for play in furrows
with scraps of wood, leaves for sails,
regattas on rivers pumped from underground.
All the magic that children take for granted
swirled to the hum of electricity, twenty-horse
pumps like Buddhas squat in orchard rows
my father farmed for wagonloads of fruit
ripe for the rail, packed by women’s hands
for the road on diesel trucks to distant places.
His silhouette crosses deep within vineyard rows,
early morning, late afternoon, hoe in hand—
his pirate’s cutlass, swashbuckling open-topped
overshoes—checking water, irrigating grapes
at seventy, or so I think at sixty-eight, knowing
now what drew him to the earth he farmed.