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CALLED FROM THE CORN

My grandfather, orphaned at eight, oldest of five,
plowed through chores Nebraska offered in spades
winter mornings when the cows called him out
from the stove red kitchen to ringing pails flecked

with cream, stall worn to gleam like a throne, hickory
handled manure fork sunk in steaming wealth
the corn would beg for when summer came,
to scythe snath mended so often the baling wire

wound around the handle was polished silver
by hands so long gone their names were biblical,
to the harrow our stony field had punished tooth
by tooth where the team dragged it west, north,

east, south in the squared spiral ending at dusk
where his lone hunch centered the survival of the clan.
All this until that one chill dawn the sky caught him
by the hair, yanked him upright from despair, sun drilled

through head to heart withered almost seed-hard
by privation, whispered glory to the boy in that moment
become minister, summoned to labor in the vineyard of souls
in far California where an orange could fill your calloused hand.

After that, the farming life was metaphor he preached—
toil and harvest, seed and bounty, frozen dawn and firelight—
for the faithful in a sun-filled church at Glendale. All
I really remember: his giant hands grown smooth in prayer

when he took your little fist and looked into your soul.

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