How Dry That Summer

(after an untitled photo by Minor White, c1960)

How dry that summer, the earth

pulled taut around the farm

split into a million hollow veins.

Escaped heat burnt our feet

as we climbed down the arroyo

where the old milker heaved and buckled —

we found her without so much as a breath,

one eye open and staring.

Grey bowl of sky staring back.

We buried her meat no good for eating,

and the wild dogs dug her up. That eye,

gone back to the beginning of itself.

Night wind whipped into the dry cottonwood,

pulled nothing but dust up its roots until the leaves

crumbled from branches.

We followed the tracks of animals who moved

slow like us in the half-light of dusk

and like them, went hungry.

Our neighbours tractored out and nothing

between us and eternity but the withered stalk,

the endless plain.