The Poetry of P.V. LeForge
Big Bend Poets chapter, Tallahassee FL
Florida State Poets Association
Seventeen Birds’ Worth
It’s easy to lose track of time on a farm.
There is always more work than hours
and time speeds by without my having
the slightest knowledge of where it goes.
I put my timepieces away
and learned to tell the seasons
by the size of the snakes in the field,
the color of the grass,
the number of leaves on the live oaks,
the state of my tan.
Then I began using birds.
When I mowed the upper field,
leaving large swatches of cut grass
and struggling insects in my wake,
cattle egrets, with their white and orange plumage—
alike as one second is to another—
would show up like dinner guests,
pecking at the swatches
and extracting what they could.
It was just a single bird at first,
wandering off from beneath a grazing horse.
Then a second from its perch on the water trough.
Others followed at intervals
from rookeries far and near.
As I finished a row I could turn around
and face the long line of birds
that pecked out dazed morsels
from the newly cut grass,
dog fennel, and blackberry brambles.
In this way I found that I could cut
a couple of acres in the time it took
twenty-five birds to accumulate.
Then I could excuse myself and leave
them to their dinner and go in search of my own.
Once I counted 90 birds, and I slept well that night.
So now it no longer takes me half an hour
to change the floodlights in the barn;
it takes me six birds.
Digging and setting a post hole is nine birds.
Driving into Marianna for lumber is more than sixty.
Call it seventeen birds’ worth.
When I got married and moved out to the farm
I liked to help my wife with the work.
Two of us could clean stalls faster than one
and dumping the wheelbarrow together saved our backs.
But she was used to doing things by herself,
and soon put together a manure spreader
small enough to back into a stall—
one with a vacuum hose as wide as a feed bucket.
The fence we were building for our new colt
needed hundreds of heavy boards screwed tightly
onto round, pressure-treated fence posts.
I held the boards while she measured and screwed.
This job gave me satisfaction until one day
she came home with a set of clamps
that held the boards in place as firm and steady as robots
and the fence went up without me.
With a machete, I cleared vines and brush from our fields,
until she drove past me in a tractor spewing leaves.
She cut down ten trees with her chain saw
In the time I could get through one with my axe.
This went on and on until I simply moved indoors
and decided to concentrate on writing poems
about things that happen here on the farm.
But that’s not where things end.
This afternoon, my wife looked in at me,
hay clinging to her sweater and nails in her apron.
She asked me where I’d been, what I was doing,
what this poem was about. Could she help.
They have been slipping
into the thickets and trees around us.
We hear them sometimes,
the yipping of the cubs,
ripping the air like sharp claws.
We discovered the bones
of small animals scattered about
and I have found tooth scratchings
on my rakes and shovels.
Later, we stumbled upon the skeletons
of neighbors, gripping rusty rifles.
And when we became the only ones left,
we became the only ones left to eat.
We are surrounded by them now;
haunted by the yip yip yipping
we’ve expected all our lives;
trying to ignore the nipping
at our hungry hearts.
Life and Death in the Rural World
Driving through the storm
with a new battery for my tractor,
I watched a bolt of lightning
spear its way into the newly mown turf
of a cow pasture just off the highway.
It left a wisp of gray smoke
and a clamor of thunder
that rolled over me
like a herd of cattle.
Just beyond, five herons,
staggered upward into flight.
"It was just a single bird at first"
P. V. (Pete) LeForge is a poet, fiction writer and playwright. Recently he was fortunate enough to have two books of poetry
accepted at virtually the same time. Ways to Reshape the Heart was published in November 2008 by Main Street
Rag Publishers, while the latest, My Wife Is a Horse, is hot off the presses from Kitsune Press.
In years past, Pete has served as editor of The Apalachee Quarterly, was on the Board of Directors of Anhinga
Press, founded the Tallahassee Writer's Guild, and began The Paperback Rack Bookstore, which he owned and operated until 2006.
He has received a writers fellowship grant and two honorable mentions from the Arts Council of Florida.
His book of short stories, The Principle of Interchange, has been successfully taught in several FSU English
He now lives in Grand Ridge, a small town in Jackson County, on a horse farm. The poems in My Wife Is a Horse
are about his experiences there.