for R. W., in memoriam

Dotting a fresh-mown pasture
they are abstracted—
lozenges of green whose yield
will feed a winter’s hunger
with a summer’s field.

For now they sit there,
circumspect and salient
as totems to another time
whose sickles and scythes
ceded the baler’s tines

this sun-baked stubbled plain
of timothy and fescue
configured with each pass,
summer materialized
in cylinders of grass.

Yet, absent the sharp inflections
of blade on polished hone,
is there really any loss?
Or is it dim nostalgia
denying is for was?

For it’s haying that remains,
patient mindful husbandry
never quite out of style,
so long as the scent of clover
still carries a country mile

to circulate among us
lost to screens and pixels
the freshet of this summer day,
sweet with its own idiom:
the musk-green smell of hay.

          —Peter Filkins

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 40 Number 2, on page 32
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