The Machine of the Twentieth Century Rolls Through the High-Yielding Crop, by John Kinsella

30 September 2012

from point of entry to expulsion the process is relentlessDust particles cling to sweat despite the sun just up,
moisture levels within brittle stalks drop
as rapdily as markets are lost or gained, shadow
puppetry of information exchange leading the finest
of mechanical technologies astray, as over the crop

the machine of the twentieth century poises–straining
against dry dock, a Titanic that won’t be sunk in those deepest
spots of abundance, a post-modern Ceres busy at the helm
lest a hidden rock break the fingers clawing in the grain;
this schizophrenic God whose speech is a rustle, a token bristling

like static on the stereo, despite state-of-the-art electronics
and a bathyspherical cabin of glass an plastic sealed
against all intrusion though retaining hawk-like vision and radio
contact with the outside world. On the fringes–at home base,
or by the gate–the workers are ready to launch out, to drain

grain from a bulging bin. The art of harvesting is in the hiding
of the operation. Behind clean lines and sun-deflecting paint
the guts of the machine work furiously; from point of entry
to expulsion the process is relentless–from comb working greedily,
grain spirals up elevators, thrashed in a drum

at tremendous speeds, straw spewed out back by
manic straw-walkers, the kernels falling to sieves below
as fans drive cocky chaff out into the viscous
daylight. The sun at mid-morning rages out of control,
glutted on this excess fuel. Melanomas spread on field workers

as they tarp a load; the driver plunges with precision
back into the crop, setting a perfect line, de-mystifying
this inland sea-an illusion, a mirage that hangs around
just before summer has reached full-blown. City granaries
filling, factories churning, ‘design’ a catchword instigating

plenty–the risks of intensive farming, tomorrow’s worry–
stubble itching, high yields floating like oil on troubled waters,
the Titanic’s myth attracting the districts of the hungry.

[Read in Peripheral Light: Selected and New Poems, published by Norton. Available on Kinsella’s own website here. Image ripped from]


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