Poetry: Trace Estes

Mr. Gray Steels for Winter

A week of crisp mornings—twin contrails
of breath quickly thinning in Kansas air—

signals the coming change as surely
as the losses lopsiding the Chief’s record.

The only thing it means to me: the need
to change gears in the mental machine

that attends to the maintenance and perfection
of this neighborhood’s most enviable yard:

prepare the tractor for this year’s invasion
as trees betray their purpose of cover

remove the mulching plate from the rider,
attach the tag-along vacuum bagger

file to points the top of the chainlink fence
where that little shit Fred’s been hopping over

blow out any excess moisture from the hoses;
consign them to terra cotta pods for storage

clean last year’s ashes from the pit, broadcast them on
worn patches of grass for the nitrogen content

chainsaw, bowline, hatchet, and loppers: make certain
this year’s brushpile is uniform to burn quickly

brush refined foxglove on the rusted triangles
of can tops planted where the neighbor’s dog digs

sharpen edges on the snowblower and coal scoop;
lay in bags of salt and sand for concrete surfaces

My last task: bringing potted flowers inside
to survive frosted evenings and snowy days.

The ancient walnut husker, serving as plant stand,
reveals a surprise when I crank the oversized wheel;

and instead of earth-stained hands, my rag is employed for tears
when the chute expels the bones of the missing hummingbird.