Dark clouds burn yellow over Lolo Peak
heavy with rain now puddling dust.
That sweet earth smell recalls my youth
on hot summer days when I waltzed
hay fields and conjured thunder clouds.
Bucking twine bales, building golden temples,
was muscle art to us. We danced and whirled
around the rolling wagon, a clean and dip,
jump and push through sun and hum and sweat.
We sculpted tiers like puzzle kings, compressed
the loaves of cattle larder firm as a stonecutter’s touch,
each corner tied tight and square enough to pass
the niggling pharaoh’s eye. He weighed the threat
of darkening sky molding his crop on the ground.
I craved much more than chaff and wind or
blisters that proved my worth. Vole and tractor
puttered black dirt, Blue-Boy nipped their heels,
a pregnant doe on Butler Creek hung bloated
dead (its broken leg tangled in barbed wire)
and barn swallows dove to bomb our stack, then
fled from our apple-missile attacks, left their nests
(rafter targets) hearts of mud and straw.
The pump-house hose and lunch break swim
quenched our dry, sticky skin like afternoon thunder
pushing winds of promise like weekend pay.
Raindrops began a syncopated increase—like gunshots
on opening day, bombarding the tin-roofed barn.
The wagon crew cut the elevator engine, ran
for cover to wait it out. I collapsed flat on my back
atop the stack, grateful for rain, inhaled the cool-
damp air. I watched a swallow watching me,
both of us dry while the torrent raged on. She was
collared by her bulbous brown-pebbled nest,
calm and grave as a sick pet. I took in, released
alfalfa breath, fingered eggshells glistening in straw.