“This Kind of Labor Soothes”

Michaela Chinn

Smith College

Today was almost a different day than all the others;

Accidentally in my bed I lie till four,

But I catch myself

Always, do I catch myself,

Not letting my body succumb-that daily chore!

I don’t write of college, of papers, and exams

I write every-day life, feeding the lambs.

A symptom of disease, laziness can be, a vicious habit that resonates in me from time to time;

But I must see it:

The sun rise above these golden fields

Which, I think, horrified, thereafter, that this beauty of today

May have been lost from dormancy

And I go to the garden, hearing a whisper in the breeze.

Clean the garden of the weeds; slice my hand being too quick

Laying the conquered enemy- cut up grass- in bundles.

From that work the sun burns, the hands sting and blister from rusty hoes’ handles

Yet the handle causes blood to stream, dry in a caked lotion.

Papa brings apple cider, best of its kind

One is nearer to something in the woods not yet refined;

I feed the lambs and cows while a cousin chops wood

I see this one cow I know at first sight;

And so to this one I feed salt, giving it to her prompted on my hands,

She chomps away the salt with her nose runny,

She smells the blood on my hands from the hoe;

And with her eyes growing heavy now, she licks them:

More red blood drips from this farmer’s hands, seeping of origin, the golden gilt-edged,

But it dampens, drenching it with humidity,

She licks and licks this cow; with her mother’s love.

She soothes — her kind of work soothes.

As she does this the salt in her mouth melts with a shriek;

I hope I will be given this land, bequeathed:

The day passes I get more done,

Finishing this kind of labor at my pace, never in a hurry or run:

These hills of Pennsylvania I love like children

And these cows as brides,

I treat all with dignity,

As a Heritage to guard with care and pride.

Perhaps it is the raking of the leaves that fall from the oaks

that were once great protectors but now along the road turn into frail petals—

that soothes me and helps the mind settle.

Or may it be the sweet victory of chasing the coyote from my cows?

Whatever it may be I have found a treasure,

Which makes me believe that here, lies at my end;

I sleep

in laurels.

Wealth beyond computing

Without pleasure.

As in my last days work, where I let the sun descend:

I realize what a philanthropist yet hedonist, I say with great fear

I am.