By Sarah Dunster
How long, I wonder, will I wait
for broods to gather round my legs.
And I’ll have feed. Every dry mouth
will fill, for ripening cheeks. I glean
from spare fields, following, with two
shallow baskets. My hands are old.
At ten I fancied to be old
enough to take my own train, wait
by myself on benches. With two
more years to run on young spring legs
I fished like mad and scrapped to glean
sweet, white flakes for my greedy mouth.
When I first shut my parching mouth
against the dust that made me old
I watched a grey crow scratch and glean
for moldy bread. I thought to wait
to see if it would beak my legs
and try to find a crumb or two.
Then ants came marching two by two
across my prickling, salty mouth.
I swallowed, tried to bend my legs
and run to catch up with the old
-est, brownest boy. He couldn’t wait
for me to bend my back and glean.
When Marchest days brought winds that gleaned
a tree branch of its pear or two,
I thought to ask my love to wait
while I found seeds and crammed my mouth
and prayed for fruit before I’m old
enough to trip on tottering legs.
The grass still cut my blue-skinned legs
before I knelt with shears to glean
as stars crept out. The moon was old
and almost full. I wished for two
more pomegranates. Watch this mouth
shake, catching flakes. And still I wait.
The wheat grows old as I try two
crumbs and cross my legs. The crows glean
for worms. I press my mouth and wait.
(Originally published in Wilderness Interface Zone)