Hay Bales, Highway 50

I realized there was more to Missouri
that summer, working in the middle of the state.

On Fridays I’d take Highway 50 from
Jeff City to Union, through antique towns,
past fields of hip-high grass that hushed
wispy and soft, green-gold in
June and July’s late-setting light.

The spell would break hard when
I hit the interstate, leaving only a fleeting
afterimage as I braced for the
reality of lane changes and going
home, to my parents.

One August evening, somewhere west of Rosebud
I drove past a field whose grass was freshly
cut, left to hay in shaggy rolls, two dozen
of them spread out like a herd of bison grazing
quiet in a pasture holding nothing else
but a single sun-soaked tree.

At its far end the field ran up against a treeline,
giving rise to one of Missouri’s unsung hills.
Above the hill a hawk tracked higher on
a thermal while cumulus and contrail
turned the color of a sunset.

I was late getting home that night.
When my parents asked me where I’d been I
said nothing, only handed them
this photograph.