Swallows and Rain

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.

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