Bunch Grass # 37
by Robert Sund
The ranchers are selling their wheat early this year, not holding it over for a better price in the spring. Next year the government lifts restrictions on planting, and nobody is sure what will happen when wheat grows from "fencerow to fencerow." This morning another man has come out from the Grain Growers to help us out. John and I haven't time to cooper boxcars and handle trucks too.
At lunchtime, he takes his carpenter's apron off and sits on a grain door in the shade of a boxcar, resting before he eats. I go out to join him and notice a Bible resting on the ledge under the rear window of his car. He says he doesn't read it much, and because he is anxious not to appear narrowly Christian, I want to know more about him. He is sixty-five, about to retire; a lonely man, it seems. There is something unspoken in him. His eyes squint to keep out the bright sunlight falling now just where the boxcar's shadow stops. I say, "There's one thing in Mark that has puzzled me." He turns to face me, and I continue. "Where Jesus says to them that have shall be given, and from them who have not shall be taken away. That always seemed cruel to me, but since the verb hasn't got an object (have what? have not what?) if you supply an object, it's really alive. Love. Money. Intelligence. Curiosity. Anything."
In the bleached countryside of his mind suddenly a new season washes over; common plants begin to blossom. And now, ideas fly back and forth between us, like bees, their legs thickening with pollen.
In the next hour we talk a lot and I learn that he's been reading Rufus Jones, Meister Eckhart, and The Cloud of Unknowing. He nearly trembles with a new joy he kept hidden. His wife writes poetry, he tells me, and adds -- thrusting years recklessly aside -- "I've worked here sixteen years, one harvest to another. I've seen a lot of young men come and go, and never had a decent conversation. It's worse with the college kids. They don't think, most of them."
Trucks start coming in again, lunch is over. He puts his carpenter's apron on again, but before we part he invites me home to dinner this evening, careful not to spoil it by appearing as happy as he really is.
Back inside the elevator, I'd like to lie down somewhere in a cool, dark corner, and weep. What are people doing with their lives, what are they doing?
Born to Swede-Finn parents in Washington state, Robert Sund (American, 1929-2001) was adopted by Evart and Elsa Sund and grew up on the family farm, Swede Hill. At the University of Washington, he met the poet Theordore Roethke who encouraged him to give up the study of medicine to become a writer. In the summer of 1963, during which he worked in the wheat fields of Washington, he wrote in a notebook that became his first book of poetry, Bunch Grass.
From My Commonplace Book - 66
Blog entry posted by Merry, Aug 18, 2012.