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One Sunday in a Wheatfield

by David Chorlton

A gunshot scared crows
out of the field, where they
had landed after being
reduced to crude strokes
by the man who braced himself
against the light
and depicted each one
with an impatient movement
of his brush: four, three, or
for the least of them two black
lines connected by a hinge
of imagination that turned them
into birds. The sun ignited
his absinthe breath
and the ruts
cartwheels had made in the path
cutting through impasto wheat
turned green as they twisted
toward the only cloud
on a day with no shadow.
The foreground rushed
to the horizon. One
of two boys having fun
calling names and making faces
took his finger from the trigger
he had just pulled
on a gun
he never had a use for
until the time he thought
himself a cowboy. When he saw
the straw hat sailing
on a golden tide
he knew he’d found
the object of his derision, and he had
a joke in every chamber
ready to shoot. Suddenly his laughter
took wing and flew
with the scattering flock
when he saw what he had done
and threw the evidence to rust
for a hundred years
in French rain. All
the dizzy world was buzzing and cawing
in his ears as the artist
set off for where his place for lunch
remained unoccupied. With a hand
pressed tight against the wound
he stumbled and prayed
and crawled when he had to
all the way back
to the Auberge Ravoux. The proprietor’s
daughter watched him
climb the stairs and saw how he lay
crooked on his bed
all starry night long
until the morning the Gendarmes
stood beside it with their lips
moving and the only audible word
was su-i-cide. His last words
were to say that sadness
lasts forever; and so
do the lies a person tells
when the last decent thing he can do
is protect the one
who frightened the crows
although he bore them
no ill intent.

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