Marvin Lurie

Baling Hay (2020)

Minimum wage in 1946 was forty cents.
The quarter I got for an afternoon on the hay baler
was short money.
But it was the first hard coin I got for work with my hands.
A farmer and his two sons cut and baled hay
where I stayed summers with my grandmother.
The fields were cut mostly to keep down the wild grasses
     around summer cottages
and they made poor hay
so the cottage owners paid the farmers a little cash.
My job was to sit on a board next to the chute,
where hay was compressed by a cycling ram.
With the sun on my neck,
the dust and smell of dry grass and hot engines in my nose,
I pushed long wires through slots in separator boards.
The son on other side would twist them to hold the bales together.
The fields must have been farmed once
because they were bumpy as if from long ago furrows.
Sometimes I grabbed the iron strap holding the chute
to keep from being thrown off
when we swung around to the next row.
I was a good team member.
I kept up with the steady rhythm of the work,
never missed a wire so a bale fell apart
and we'd have to stop to rake up the hay.
At ten years old
I began to understand what work is.


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