Haying & Spilt Milk


            after Grant Wood’s painting

At full day the farmer surveys his work.
The walls of threshed hay form a labyrinth
etching a map of his labor into the land.

The trail is his own, but he cannot remember
the route. He tries to retrace his raked steps
but at every turn a dead end bricked in hay.

He looks to the barn in the distance, his point
of origin at dawn, wonders how he strayed
so far away into the peripheral landscape.

Why his every morning straight and narrow
serpentines into the hissing evening, leaving
him winding home, afraid to kick over the stacks.

How at sundown the textured horizon weaves
itself with loose straw before his bleary eyes
and the bladed windmill reaps swaths of dusk.

Spilt Milk

“All the good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.”
           – Grant Wood

The cow is ashamed
her limp neck droops
to the ground, unwilling
to support her head
and the feral impulse
it shot down her spine.

Before she could reason
she kicked the can
and the boy drips
in milk and shock.

She has learned from the dog.
Her upturned eyes implore
the farmer for forgiveness.
She knows she has broken
the unwritten contract
of domestication.

10,000 years of animal husbandry
has bred her horns into nubs.
Her udder swells daily with more milk
than her calves could possibly drink.

The fence around the barn
no longer keeps her in,
but keeps the wilderness out.

She knows in exchange
for the providence of alfalfa
and the safety of the farmer’s rifle
she becomes a product.

But breeding can never
extinguish the flickering
of Mrs. O’Leary’s lamp
igniting her instinct.

Chase Dimock is an English Professor from Los Angeles and he serves as Managing Editor of As It Ought To Be Magazine. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Illinois. His poetry has appeared in Hot Metal Bridge, Waccamaw, Saw Palm, and San Pedro River Review.

Photo Credit: Logan Tozzi, New Mexico Review Staff