Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, WITCHING ON HARDSCRABBLE, by WALTER ROBERT MCDONALD

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WITCHING ON HARDSCRABBLE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Farming on dry land, a man keeps his witch-stick
Last Line: Brought in elsewhere in texas. With my own eyes.
Alternate Author Name(s): Mcdonald, Walt
Variant Title(s): Witching
Subject(s): Drought; Farm Life; Prairies - Texas; Water; Agriculture; Farmers; Plains - Texas

Farming on dry land, a man keeps his witch-stick
handy. It might be dark little pepper clouds
at night, maybe a coyote lame in the hip
and desperate, cramming his head
through the chicken wire and choked to death.

Something will give a sign, and faith aside,
you go witching. Women I know like willows,
most men take oak or sycamore. If Zacchaeus
could see the Lord from a sycamore,
my Uncle Murphy used to say, the same branch
ought to point me to the water of life.

But it's maple for me, the peeled crotch
bone-white and hollow in the heartwood,
tiny tubes that sough in the wind like ghosts
I hear offering advice. Go,
they moan so low I sometimes think I'm dreaming,
Go. And I go that way for a while, the maple
dragging the other way. I've seen my daddy
bring them in five times a summer. The record
is six, one short of perfect.

I've wondered if it isn't this land I keep
scratching to make a living, hardpan,
ten inches of rain a year, flat
as the day Columbus was born. I've seen wells
brought in elsewhere in Texas. With my own eyes.

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