Country Things

Some days even nature seems sinister.
Walking around the farm with a beer,
Seeking some solace after the evening news,
You meet the cat you love coming back
From the windbreak, a rare songbird
In his mouth. In the mulberry branches
The silkworms writhe in nests that, backlit
By twilight, look like X-rays of lungs.
In the pasture the cow kicks at her calf
And won’t let her nurse, while in a seam
Of gleaming honey in the oak that lightning
Cleaved the queen daintily eats her offspring.
In the rafters of the barn the starlings are
Pushing the owls’ eggs out of the nest,
While the owl herself is out hunting.
Going in, you nearly step on a swarm
Of ants ravishing a butterfly like people
Tearing a capsizing ship down, its wings
Like torn sails, and the first thing you hear
When you enter the kitchen is the snap
Of the mousetrap you set this morning,
Tired of being kept awake all night
By their scratching in the walls. And so
You are met with your own small act
Of cruelty, your contribution to the whole.
With a pair of pliers that are themselves
Always biting something, you take
The broke-necked mouse by the tail
And throw it into the darkening yard,
Never knowing that in favor of it the cat
Let go of the bird, who was only stunned,
And whose song you woke to this morning.

Austen Smith

Austen Smith

Austin Smith grew up on a family dairy farm in northwestern Illinois. He is the author of two poetry collections, Almanac and Flyover Country (both published through the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets). His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Harper’s, Ploughshares, and many other publications. He teaches at Stanford but currently lives in a 100-year-old farmhouse in Jo Daviess, County in northwestern Illinois, where he writes and gardens.
Austen Smith

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Author: Austen Smith

Austin Smith grew up on a family dairy farm in northwestern Illinois. He is the author of two poetry collections, Almanac and Flyover Country (both published through the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets). His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Harper’s, Ploughshares, and many other publications. He teaches at Stanford but currently lives in a 100-year-old farmhouse in Jo Daviess, County in northwestern Illinois, where he writes and gardens.