Son, thou art ever with me,
and all that I have is thine.
Every day he got up before cockcrow
to milk the cows and clean the gutters.
He cut and stacked and hauled,
came into the house every evening
sticky with sweat
and fell asleep right after supper.
His face was always sunburned,
his hands were rough and scored with cuts.
The work was his, and the worry:
the price of milk and grain,
drought or fields too wet to mow.
And the beauty was his as well:
warblers trilling in the hedges,
soft tongues of calves,
the scent of ripening corn.
early apples, sour and green.
Then that brother came home
and there was the party.
A little calf killed,
the beer drunk up,
litter all over the lawn,
and for what?
To celebrate the return
of a wastrel they were better
off without. And his father,
bewildered and happy,
standing in the kitchen explaining.
I know he’s no good.
I know he’ll be off again.
But all he’ll ever get is a party.
Let him enjoy it,
and later, when they’ve all gone
downtown to the bars,
you and I will have a single malt
out on the porch
and watch the stars.