The first time I saw a man sew anything,
it was my father patching binder canvas.
He took good care of such things.
On his chair at the kitchen table
he draped the course cloth (Ma made him
bang the dust out before bringing it in)
over his knees like a skirt. Beside him,
an oily box kept on the Bible shelf--
a shoemaker's kit with awls, needles,
line tough enough to reel in salmon--
held his tools. Ripe, grainy smells
filled the kitchen. Pa sat up
late, bent to his work, stitching on
bright new patches, binding frayed edges,
his head heavy as oats in the dewy field.
We lugged the dark canvas out next morning,
careful not to drag it in the damp grass,
and spread it for an apron back of the sickle bar.
After threshing, we rolled the parched cloth,
packed it under the rafters in a dry shed,
keeping in mind to take good care. And now,
now in a strange city or along some lakeshore,
I still hear the thrum of canvas, the swish
of oat stems, a bundling clatter of gears--
shocks of harvest in a far, golden field.