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Man With a Cutter Plough

ISSUE:  Autumn 1933

Man with a cutter PLOW
Ishall be going soon where no one knows: I shall go to my pine pole mountain shack.
Before the autumn comes and summer goes,
Before leaves fall—I must be going back.
I was not made to walk on streets of stone And breathe into my lungs the city smoke;
I must go to the highland world I own Where I can breathe the air from pine and oak.
I shall go back to where the jarflies sing,
Back to brown hills that shoulder to the sky.
I want to see shikepokes on whirring wings,
I want to hear the bittern’s lonely cry,
I want to hear the beetles sing at night,
I want to see the owl fly in the gray starlight.
I shall go back to life sly as a fox,
And follow mountain paths through huckleberries,
Shoemakes, grapevines, and deep, red rocks,
Where blacksnakes sun and the gray lizard scurries.
I shall go to the life that’s home to me
And bare my flesh to wind and sun and rain.
I shall go back to life—I shall be free
With earth to live the old wild life again.
I want to worship Gods: White Flying Cloud,
Red Evening Cloud,
Wind, and Moon and Stars.
I do not want to live a life too loud—
No louder than the blowing of a wind,
No swifter than the passing of a cloud,
But higher than oak limbs against the stars.

Water is all we want—water to drink—
To moisten lips and dust between the teeth.
Water is all—water is good to drink—
And men and plants are thirsting near to death.
The roots of corn and goldenrod are dry;
The juice is drying in the stalks of cane;
The wind and grass and silking corn-stalks sigh
For water, and the rain-crows cry for rain—
“O Heavens, send rain to our dusty teeth,”
They cry, “and send cool water for grass roots—
Send water soon—we’re thirsting near to death—
Send water soon—water is good for gut’s—
Our guts need water and our roots are dry—
Oh, wash our dusty teeth before we die!”
The muddy rain-clouds rose in the northwest
And muddy rain-clouds rose in the southeast;
Winds sang the thirsting corn and grass to rest
But they woke drinking in a water feast.
The Earth cried out for rain—and the rain fell:
Potato wagons rolled across the sky,
The lightning cracked like pop-corn over hell,
And Earth cried out: “O rain, my guts are dry!
My long intestines are dry as dog bones
And dirty-colored as a dead man’s veins;
My long intestines are cramped with dry stones
And I need gastric juice of heavy rains.
Water is new life for my wrinkled skin;
Water is sweet red wine: I soak it in.” The woods are fresher now, and good to smell: Water has made them fresh and washed them clean.
Water has washed the bark and washed it well;
Water has lifted dirty haze between The hills, from over corn and stacks of grain;
Water has wet the parching rain-crow’s throat.
We heard the rain-crow singing in the rain: He sang a new rain song—he tried to quote The song of fresh rain-water giving blood To thirsting roots of corn and pasture grass;
And giving Earth’s intestines a cool mud Where water snakes can writhe when feeders pass.
The song is fine to water-moccasins And to the cool, mud-burying terrapins.
Kentucky dusk and lone, lone-evening sounds:
A pair of doves wing-fanning dusky air,
The far off, drowsy sheep-bells’ jingling sounds,
A brisk horse-snicker answered by a mare.
The winds hum and dead churchyard grasses wave;
These winds hum tunes men sang in former days;
They sing for old men sleeping in the grave—
They sing: “We loved old men and golden days.”
Kentucky evening slipping fast away—
A barking dog—some pounding at a shack;
Kentucky dusk with hills brown as the clay.
The moon arose—went down—the night is black—
Dark hills—night autumn hills and lonely sound,
Lonely as water running under ground.

Autumn will come upon us like a thief And lonesome winds will blow and dead leaves fall;
Autumn will come upon us—birds will call,
And drift upon the wind with the dead leaf.
And trees will flaunt their yellow, crimson, gold,
And mellow earth in stubble fields will freeze;
The sheep will gather closer in the fold And pasture cattle sleep beneath the trees.
Autumn will come and whistling winds will sweep Across the broken fields with lonesome sound;
The rabbit in a bed of leaves will sleep Until its blood is spilt upon the ground.
Autumn will be here soon, there is no doubt;
Winter will blow the lamp of autumn out.
Autumn is coming now; plowing is over.
Pastures are sprouted clean and garden tended;
The cane is thinned and all the fences mended;
It’s cool for bees to gather from late clover.
And we must gather now the rakes and plows,
And mattocks, spades, pitchforks, and garden hoes,
Stack them away just as the summer goes;
And we must watch the water for the cows And keep the holes cleaned out, for land is dry And pasture grass is short this time of year.
For martins gather and the autumn’s near And August clouds go floating slow and high.
When it’s too cool for bees to work on clover,
It’s time to gather tools, for summer’s over.

I see the blood of autumn in the wind,
The wine-red blood of apple tree and peach;
The yellow blood of poplar tree and beech;
I see the blood of autumn drifting in
The fence rows and the stools of greenbrier thickets;
I see the trees still bleeding down red drops—
Black oak, birch, elm, black gum: from their tall tops
The blood drips like fresh water from old spickets.
Oh blood of autumn, you are in my blood—
Your shoemake blood is in my darkening veins;
Only, your red of shoemake blood remains
And mine does not.
I am the naked tree
The winds have blown, my autumn is on me.
(Oh mood of autumn, you are in my mood I)
I see the long black train of hungry crows Fly hard against the cool September wind.
They must be looking for the old shock rows;
They have been hauled and grain is hard to find.
I see the white clouds floating high and slow,
And oak leaves drifting in the windy sky.
The earth is looking big and brown below;
The sky is looking big and bright and high.
The dwindling streams are murmuring in sleep;
They tell their secrets to the willow limbs: Something this is that makes one want to creep Out of the world—away from funeral hymns,
Sung by the lonesome wind and dying leaves And plucked on harp strings in the leafless trees.

From in this frozen cornfield where I stand
I hear the lonesome Greenup church bells sound.
Far out across the gray December land
They carry high above the frozen ground
Like winds that shake dead oak leaves on the bough
And stir through bleak December’s white corn blades.
The sound of old church bells is ringing now
Over the silent fields with a strange sound
And through the tree tops and the dead grass curled:
My heart is stirred though all the world is cold.
0 bells, with your chimes shake the sleeping World!
He is asleep—his fiery heart’s grown cold.
0  rusty church bells, wake the dreaming World! Then warm him,
Sun, with your white arms of gold!
Oh I shall put my cutter plow away
And rakes and hoes and spades back in the shed;
1  know the season’s over and today I’ll haul away the little crop I’ve made.
It is not much for any man to see;
Too many briars are raked in with the grain
And dead leaves fallen from the white-oak tree;
It is rough cropping but it is my cane
And corn and words, and I shall rake them here
And leave them here, for I shall soon go on
To clear strange fields and use my cutter plow—
If I can use a plow when I am gone.
And men can come and plow and sow and reap
The land I leave when I am taking sleep.


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