Wheat Harvest, Broomehill 1962
for my father
I recall those long, golden swathes,
the orange Chamberlain’s diesel reek
and roar, haze’s shimmering sworls,
the dozy nodding of hairy wheat;
how the dust of those harvest days
filled my mouth and nostrils, ears,
inflamed my eyes, clogged every pore
until I couldn’t hear, breathe, speak;
how my sweat drew in the cracked husks
winnowed through the header’s beaks,
raising livid lumps all over my skin
that pulsed to the tractor’s dull beat.
Recall, too, that stoic, gnomish shadow
stomping mallee roots with big-booted feet,
hurling stones from the tractor’s way
unmindful of sweat, itch or heat;
how, at last, that shadow straightened,
calling an end to the itch of wheat,
how dusk rolled in then, low and brown,
whispering of a cool shower, salad, sleep.
Peter Burges lives in Perth. Growing up and working on the family farm at Broomehill in Western Australia’s Mallee region, he is now retired after 25 years with IDP Education in Asia and the Middle East, prior to which he studied at the Marist Fathers’ seminary in Sydney, completed his BA at the University of Western Australia, and worked on a Fred Hollows trachoma program. His poetry has appeared in various Australian journals and been commended and shortlisted in a number of competitions, while his first collection, “… through slow-turning days…”, was published in 2019. He is currently seeking publication for a second collection, “always, homewoods bound”.
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