William Ashley Johnson

BREAKING GROUND

Too young for more than simple chores
we followed the men
from field to field
as they plowed under
the hard crust and empty stalks.
We were the first
to new ground
in our station behind the plow,
and sought what didn't belong
in that softness--
mostly rocks turned up to sunlight
that settled in the plow's trench,
pale wet undersides exposed,
the forced scallop of arrow heads
or shards of hardened clay
with finger-smoothed faces,
lines that never meshed.
And once,
beneath the engine's chug
and the hiss of breaking ground,
high and plaintive,
a single scream
then silence.
One plow blade ran red
before the dirt wiped it clean,
and a single rabbit lay torn in two,
the litter's runt,
eyes still closed.
There was no missed step
with the sun short
and the northwest field still to do,
simply one more for the pile.

William Ashley Johnson is currently an MFA student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. A native of Lexington, Kentucky, he took his bachelor's degree at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he studied with Peter Meinke and David Scott Ward. Johnson's work has recently appeared in Inscape and Greensboro Review. He has work forthcoming in Poem, The Southeast Review, and Raleigh News and Observer.

"Breaking Ground" copyright © 2002 by William Ashley Johnson.