Think of it—how the flick of an arm,
the random glare of the sun, the angle
of a young farmhand’s elbow or bunch of his cuff
as he reaches in carelessly to pull a clog of hay
from a chugging baler can twist a man’s promise
or an unknown family’s history forever.
The clang of sun bright enough to blind his view,
the cuff just close enough to the gear to be grabbed
by relentless metal, the arm pulled deeper
into grinding gear, pulled nearly to the obliterating
teeth as he screams and yanks back, panic-force,
seeing the foreman lunge to flick the switch.
Curly Thiers—solid man,
not a fool, not a drunk, just too eager to end a day
baling under blazing sun in Alturas—
now stares at his bloody show of an arm
feels pain ripping like avenging bees. There slips
across his mind before blackout: it’s still there
but that blood’s flowing like Niagara.
When he wakes to a narrow iron bed
in the farmer’s house--his arm a white-swathed
ache, flash-memories of being carried,
of a strange man’s hands on him—questions teeter
like the last cards wavering on a trembling tower:
How fierce the infection? How steady his will? Will
he see 1930 come?
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