My uncles had set that day to do the whole thing,
and the day was forecast to be clear.
That meant locals and their other mates
magnetising to the paddock spot:
a circle of utes and unemployed old wagons
radiating out in degrees of exhaustion:
not much of a word said
for the cold of the march ahead.
The job was: excavating a fair old trench
for burying hay up to its head:
stacking, not bumbling in, the bales:
tarpaulining the whole thing,
a dozen men making a ginormous bed
expertly of the earth:
tucking in the edges with the weight
of immensely heavy, robust tyres
that had to be hiding the apertures
they had in them. Like you ever do
at that age, you attain a little grassed
hillock with an ideal view of things.
By midmorning I had picked my
vicinity of fascinating dirt bone-dry
of daffodils. The trench was then the
beginning of a knee abrasion:
the earth was pushing back with
crevasse-cracks, elastoplast-ied collarbones
of clay. Lunch was a distracted
looking-on, a flinty-eyed imagining
over sandwiches about how and
from what angle to attack things next.
Afternoon was the cruellest month,
and dusk was just unconscious will,
the bit I didn’t, and will never get.
The half-light made them all shadows
of hauling, appalling efforts. The last tyre
went down, was met with a spectral
acknowledgement. Not a soul had left
out of fear of abandonment of
any other diarised thing in their lives:
the desire to get it done, however
mental and not ergonomic that was,
was all, by the end.
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