The tractor’s labor, its heavy yellow blade
Scraping snow and grass from frozen earth,
Hushed to dead silence by the mournful organ
And the shuttered church windows.
But I see it through the shutter cracks. I see the driver
And his unkempt hair partly concealed by a John Deere cap.
The vapor of his breath rises in the morning sun like a soul
Escaping temporal bonds.
The driver’s ignorance of the early death,
Of the slender youth in a cold silken casket,
Warmed not at all by the electric furnace
That hums steadily through the dolor of this hour.
I hate the tractor driver.
I hate him.
I hate the heavy clothing he’s donned against the cold and the depth of death.
I hate his gloved hands working the controls
That raise and lower the yellow blade—
The blade that opens the path to Austin’s grave.
A grave already exposed to the bleak sky by that same demonic tractor.
Austin foresaw the digging tractor—
How it would push and work against his weak existence—
How it and the merciless driver would come as inexorable terminators.
Austin’s dispassionate eyes, the sullen misery—
Prophecies I did not try to believe or comprehend,
And thus ignored and killed by neglect.
“Was not my place to question or intervene,”
I’ve said uncounted times,
But consolation flees from me,
Having heard and understood my self-deceit.
Oh, to return.
To go from here to that gray time before the snow—
To that time before the tractor was needed
To open the ground and close it over death.
And deeper than death will Austin lie—
Too deep to remember.
Too deep to know the unbroken silence,
The perpetual cold,
Or the retreating tractor.
* * *
Unlike the bottom of graves
With a rotted and concealed sadness and a definitive termination,
The crypts of the depressed living are interminable.
As long as the plot lies unopened and undisturbed,
While the tractor stands idle,
A breathing soul, like Austin’s was, like mine is,
Wakes daily to a grayness of less than simple existence.
Indeed, the light of sufficiency is unattainable, even extinguished.
No means or medicines will recover the candescent hope owned by others,
For hope’s existence depends on a cherished vision, which I have not.
Even a tractor has a purpose.