The latest issue of Prime Number Magazine is chock full of poetry! Find one poem by Mercedes Lawry below, and two more from her (plus the rest of the issue!) here.
The latest issue of Prime Number Magazine is chock full of poetry! Find one poem by Mercedes Lawry below, and two more from her (plus the rest of the issue!) here.
For this week’s interview, we talk to Richard Krawiec, who writes everything from novels to short stories to plays to poetry (his poetry collection, She Hands Me the Razor, is available from Press 53), about writing in all those formats (especially poetry!), and keeping busy during the summer.
P53: What is the longest amount of time you’ve spent on one poem?
RK: Rarely do I ever spend less than five to six months on any single poem. There are a couple of poems I’ve spent several years on, off and on. But I also find, unlike fiction, it’s harder to go back to old poems and make them fresh. I recently dug out a story that I had worked on for a year about a decade ago and spent the last few weeks working on it exclusively; I discovered what I thought was a central scene needed to be cut. For me, because of the emphasis on language and line in a poem I find it best if I can wrap up a poem within two years at most. Six months is better. After that I have a different, hopefully a deeper, understanding of language and structure and so the poem won’t lend itself to reworking. With poetry, one’s technique develops differently than it does in prose.
P53: What kind of music do you listen to? Do you listen to music while you write?
RK: I don’t listen to music while I write because I am totally prone to dancing and singing. I would get nothing written if I listened to music. But I’d feel great. Although anyone around me would probably be screaming at me to shut up. I love to sing and absolutely cannot. I listen to all kinds of music. Florence and the Machine to Flogging Molly, Abbey Lincoln to Coltrane, Mozart to Bach, Lizz Wright, Prince, Pink Floyd, Springsteen, Celtic music, spirituals, classic rock. The other night I found a really cool hip hop station—and I love Russ Parr in the morning, when I’m driving. The only thing I don’t like is schlocky pop. Youtube is great because you can begin one place and find someone totally new. The other night I went from Leon Russell—the simple beauty of his lyrics in “Song to You”—to Joe Cocker to Claudia Lennear and ended up discovering Lisa Hannigan doing a kick-ass version of “Personal Jesus” using a violin bow to percuss a dulcimer. I am drawn to music with interesting lyrics—Bowie is an underrated lyricist, I think. And I love Sondheim, Sweeney Todd is brilliant, arguably the best musical ever written. Phillip Glass—I listened to him back when he was still driving a taxi.
P53: You have written in a variety of mediums; are you able to pick one that’s your favorite?
RK: The material dictates the form. I’ve been fortunate to have published novels, a story collection, young adult biographies, plays, feature articles, poetry books. I do a lot of editing, too, and I’d estimate that 35% of the time people are trying to force material into the wrong form. I can’t tell you how many people are trying to write poems out of material that would work better in prose form. Or they’re trying to cram a novel into a short story, or turn a personal essay into a novel. Poetry is observational in nature, reflective. Prose works better for material that needs causality and an extension over time. I recently completed a short poem about grief. I dealt with it in a metaphoric way, as a type of dangerous migration where one might be destroyed along the way. But I also felt compelled to write recently about my dog, who died two years ago, and how the dog’s life was intertwined with mine during a period of developing chaos in my marriage. That clearly had to be written in prose. Simplistically put, I think poetry often uses the outer world to get at interior truths and prose expresses interior truths through a depiction of the outer world. Often—not always—prose is a moment of meaning where the context of events that generated that meaning are implied; prose is a presentation of a series of events, contexts, where the meaning of those events is implied.
But then again, I could be totally full of shit. It wouldn’t be the first time.
P53: You can only read one book for the rest of your life. What is it?
RK: Can’t do it. My answer might change every week. I am tempted to give you an answer that might be misinterpreted. I have a friend, a Communist, who once said the Bible is the most complete depiction of human behaviors ever written. So that’s a possibility. Or the complete works of Shakespeare. Or something by Dickens. Bhagavad Gita. Maybe I could finally, if I had no other choice, get through Moby Dick. The Joy of Sex—that’s something you could reread over and over.
P53: What are your summer plans?
RK: Plans? There’s a recession going on and I’m wallowing in it. Seriously, I’m teaching an online fiction writing course at UNC Chapel Hill. Working on two plays, several poems—my composition process has evolved recently. I used to write at least a partial draft of a poem most days and then cycle around when revising them. The last six months I’ve generated fewer original poems and spent more time day by day revising one poem at a time. I also have two stories going. Trying to convince myself not to begin a novel. Finishing up the Jacar Press chapbook and full length book contests. Setting up readings in the fall. And I’m editing four manuscripts. Two women’s novels. A non-fiction book. And a collection of poetry by a well-published poet.
Three Facts About Richard:
1. I once sang “Suffragette City” at Boston City Hall Plaza for a contest judged by Buffalo Bob Smith.
2. My first novel was reviewed in both the Sunday and daily New York Times.
3. I was a runaway at 16—ran from Massachusetts to Florida, where I was subsequently arrested and spent time in Dade County Jail.
Take a break from whatever you’re doing right now and check out this incredible short piece by Nahal Suzanne Jamir, taken from her debut short story collection, In the Middle of Many Mountains. Happy Friday!
In Perfect English
Minutes ago, the mother began cooking. The kitchen is already filled with an eclectic odor, sharp and sweet at the same time, though the smell of eggplant dominates. In a short while, she will finish the dessert. She began the dessert days ago. Almonds, boiled and peeled by hand, lay drying in the laundry room. Odd to begin with the end of the meal, but the end is the best part, where everything makes sense.
The mother has been watching her children, one boy and one girl, Sami and Azar, since the day each came out of her body—and each did so quickly, like lightning from a cloud. They struck her down. She hadn’t been able to touch them at first because of fear or, as the doctors said, numbness. She didn’t see much of a difference between fear and numbness; one was the cause, the other the effect. Regardless, in the beginning, she could only look. Not until much later did love accompany the watching, but she will never tell because a mother is supposed to love from the beginning. The secret allows her to be a proper mother.
The children are out on the porch, which is green like a wine bottle, long like a ship. There is an old practice of putting ships in bottles. Should she bind her children thus? Always there but always ready to leave. It’s hard to know where the fragility lies: in wood or glass, in stillness or motion. Will it be home or the outside world that kills them?
They’re outside so her son can smoke. She wishes he wouldn’t but is glad the children are home. They come back rarely, and she cannot recall the last time she cooked for someone other than her husband. He is sleeping upstairs. He doesn’t eat enough.
But the children, since leaving home, have developed appetites twice as large as the ones they left with. They return ravenous, and she cannot decide if their hunger emerges from a lack of sustenance or insatiability. Regardless, she will feed them. Nourishment is what children should receive at home. They return to remember that they should not starve, that she will not let them.
Looking out, she sees them talking. They were always such talkative children, mouths running from the rising of the sun to the rising of the moon and then sometimes in the dark of night from the secret hallways of their dreams. Always expressing themselves. It makes her proud because she still, after decades, cannot speak English well enough to properly tell a story or relay an emotion. Love. Loneliness. Touching. Touchy. Her children forget everything she says.
Now, she mixes rice, beef, and other things to begin making dolmeh barg mow. Hair falls in her face as she wraps grape leaves around rice and beef. Fresh tarragon is required for the dish, but she doesn’t have it. Next time they drive into Los Angeles, she’ll get some. For the moment, she’ll manage. And, yes, soon, she forgets the missing ingredient. She thinks of nothing but the preparation. It is all movement and life as she wraps food with food.
* * *
What are the stories that her children tell each other in the light that drips through the leaves above the porch? If she asks, they will tell her, “Oh, nothing. I don’t know.” They can’t even remember their own stories.
The grape leaves are baking. She has stirred everything, turned some burners off and currently sits at the old kitchen table, the one she cried at when her own mother died. For political reasons, she hadn’t been able to go home for the funeral. In that land far away, her sisters and brothers buried their mother below the heat. Her mother forced to slink worm-like into the defiantly cool ground, never to return.
The husband upstairs, silent.
The mother goes into the laundry room to get the almonds. They weren’t the best. Almonds from aisle 5 of the American grocery store. She’d noticed their lack of smell as she peeled them for the dessert, lozeh badam. She removes the sugar water from the burner to let it cool, and then she mixes almonds, sugar, and cardinal in the blender. The whirring motor sings her happiness.
Then, she combines the finely ground almond mixture with the cooled syrup and begins molding them into shape, the mixture just loose enough not to stick to her hands, just right. She thinks of watching her own mother do this in a place very distant, a place of heat, a town called Nayriz in the middle of many mountains.
She has two different pots of kateh going, one for the fesenjaan and one for the ghormeh sabzi, which are, respectively, Azar’s and Sami’s favorites. Or at least they used to be. Too many times has she prepared a favorite dish to discover it wasn’t at all a child’s favorite. Though it saddened her, she tried to rejoice in the fact that they were expressing themselves. Now, she has written down what their favorites are so that she’ll never forget.
The smell of eggplant reminds the mother to stir the stew. Khoresh bademjahn is her husband’s favorite. He should be awake in a few minutes. He’ll come downstairs asking only about dinner, not about the children. Sometimes she thinks he is glad that they never come home, though she doesn’t understand why because their life is slow and silent without them.
The mother still cannot believe that her children have returned. It’s been two years. She’s gone to visit each a few times, never for more than two days, and they went on with their lives while she remained in their apartments and cleaned. They wouldn’t let her cook for them, said they didn’t want a mess in the kitchen. This is one way in which they are alike—and there are so few. She loves them both equally, though she knows their hearts are very different. One will give and one will ask. One will love, the other pierce a nose. Both will leave and never come back, except for food and talk on a chilly night. She puts the lozeh badam in the fridge to solidify.
The dessert is done, the sweet mixture cooled. The treats look like stars. When she was younger, her own mother used to tell her not to eat too many because eating stars, like wishing on them, was dangerous. Her children had never made such a connection. They have always called the dessert simply “sweet stuff.”
Steam leaks from the pots of rice and rises. The mother follows it with old green eyes. A white mist that could fill your belly rising from the pot to her face to the ceiling, then circling around the room like an amateur belly-dancer. The border in the room is yellow. Yellow ducks—the kind that belong in bathtubs—swimming in a two-dimensional sea. Her children told her years ago that such a border belonged in a bathroom, not in a kitchen. But there it was, out of place, even turning brown with age. The ducks never got anywhere but never stopped swimming. Yelling outside. They can’t be fighting. Not now. The food is almost ready. With her hand on the screen door, she is a moment away from yelling to them. Come in, it’s time. But she hears something boiling over and returns to the stove.
As she reaches for the boiling pot, she stops. She cannot move any more, for there is a hot pain in her that stills her. The floor rises to meet her. She recalls a song about the road rising to meet you. They sang it at both her children’s high school graduations. And may the wind blow softly. Outside, she can see the wind evidenced in the trees. She can feel the coolness it brings. All in all, it’s been the kind of day that makes one want to stand upon a grassy knoll and look down.
(She is always watching.)
Yes, there it is. She can see it now. The city. Her children are waiting for her. Everything shines. She sees a city filled with flowers, another filled with heat. From her vantage point, the two can be seen together, are together. Then, brighter, white, gone. Darkness and tunnel. There is supposed to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
The trees outside turn into grass. She is, at the same time, looking down on rolling fields and up at thrashing branches. She wonders why they can’t hear her but realizes it is because she utters no sound. Used to be able to sing like a nightingale. She sang the story of lovers who lost and found each other. An old story that is told again and again under different titles. If she could use her voice right now, she would sing the tale in perfect English to the children in a voice that would lilt and transcend the wind. The lovers would not be allowed to remain lost.
This week’s guest judge is Cooper Renner! In 2012, Ravenna Press published Cooper Renner’s novella, Disbelief, and a selection of his drawings in Triple No. 1. His story “Coyotes” will appear later this year in the anthology NewBorder (Texas A&M University Press). His poetry appears under the name Cooper Esteban, and he was an editor at elimae from 2005-2012.
Cooper’s prompt: Write a 53-word story in which there is a wave of warm weather after much cold.
Guidelines and Information
-53 words—no more, no less—titles are not included in the word count.
-1 submission per person.
-Limit one prize per entrant per month.
-e-mail your submission directly to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5 PM Tuesday, April 29th Eastern Standard Time.
-Each quarter, Prime Number Magazine, Press 53’s online literary journal, comes out with a new issue. All winning 53-word stories will be put into consideration for publication in the journal, with editor Clifford Garstang choosing one winner.
-The 53-Word Story App is now available for download in the Android App Store (it’s called 53Words)! For those with other smart devices, check out the web app (developed by Daniel Krawiec) at 53wordstory.com.
Congratulations to Jacqueline, whose story “Honeymoon” was chosen by guest judge Richard Peabody as last week’s winner! She wins the Press 53 publication of her choice, plus a chance at getting her story published in Prime Number Magazine. Check out the winning story below.
We are sinking.
Water licks our ankles as he strums his father’s guitar. The sun sets on the Tropic of Cancer. The moon is full. It will highlight our drowning.
“I miss the land,” I whisper.
He lifts another bucket to the side of the boat and pours it out.
“So do I.”
Press 53 thinks National Poetry Month is cool and all, but we celebrate poetry every single day (!!) and on Wednesdays, we share something for you to celebrate, too. This week’s poem comes from Isabel Zuber, taken from her collection Red Lily.
The Fine and Wayward Horses
the fine and wayward
horses of the night
how we got on their backs
ride without reins.
They have never known breaking
plunge every cliff
gallop the bottom of the sea.
Deceit says a voice
under the wild wind.
You’ve been nowhere.
Hush we know more now
than saltwater or falling forever
and we go anywhere.
Issue 37 of Prime Number Magazine is now live! Check out the first part of a short story by Connor Ferguson below, and find the rest of the story (and the issue) here.
An Incident in Brief
This house is wicked. And I don’t mean wicked in the sense people here use it, but in the traditional sense, something wicked this way comes. Something truly wicked.
This is the beginning of Louise Katz’s diary entry marked August 10, six days after moving into the house at 14 Everett Road.
It can easily be said that Louise had a flair for the dramatic when writing her diary. In the months leading up to the move, she mentions on repeated occasions that she believed her marriage was “haunted,” for example.
Marc and Louise Katz moved in almost a year after the death of their only daughter at the age of three years and four months. They determined that they needed to get out of the two-bedroom suburban house they had lived in for five years, the house that had been the site of Julia’s conception, the happiness surrounding her birth, the two agonizing years of her illness, and finally the site of Marc and Louise’s grief following her death. In Louise’s words, they “fell in love with the house [at 14 Everett Road] instantly” and bought it after only two visits, one to see the house, and the other to see the town, which Louise described in June of that year as “nondescript but perfect.” “I know I usually like to take more time with things, but I have a feeling about this place,” she wrote in her diary just before they made an offer.
Reviewing her diary entries from the Katzes’ first six days in the house, subtle portents of what is to come reveal themselves almost immediately. In the entry marked August 5, describing their initial arrival the day before, Louise specifically mentions feeling “not at home, almost unwelcome,” a feeling she ascribes to simply not having moved in completely, with most of their possessions still in boxes stacked in the center of each room.
Convinced that “the purpose of moving here, the whole reason we’re here [i.e. to heal from their daughter’s death] can’t begin until we’re fully moved in,” Louise becomes obsessed with unpacking and getting rid of all the boxes as quickly as possible. At this point, Marc had yet to finalize his transfer to a local office and was still planning on making the drive to Boston every day. He had only managed to finagle three days off for the move. Louise expresses her frustration with his “uncharacteristic laziness” during those days. He is not working with her same fervor, and this seems to agitate her further. “To make matters worse,” he goes to bed early each night, “even though he spent what seems like all day sitting on his ass.” She writes that the half-unpacked state of the house makes her “uneasy” and she “just want[s] the place to feel like a home as quickly as possible.”
It was as if I was being watched, but not like there was something in the woods watching me, but that the woods themselves, the trees themselves were watching me. I felt like I was going to have a panic attack, my heart started pounding and I felt like I couldn’t escape, even though I didn’t know what it was I wanted to escape from.
Arthur Powers’ new book, A Hero for the People: Stories of the Brazilian Backlands, is now available for pre-order; get to know Arthur a little bit this Monday morning, and be sure to check out his excellent debut when it comes out in May! Arthur talks to Press 53 about desert island books and the best part about writing, below.
P53: When do you first remember wanting to be a writer?
AP: When I was in junior high school, we had a “classics” shelf at our school library. Jules Verne, Dumas, Sir Walter Scott—I read them one after another. I began to think it would be fun to write. Later I took a creative writing class in high school—and wrote a story I still think is pretty good (very influenced by John Steinbeck). I got seriously into writing in college—especially poetry—but it took years to be really good at it.
In one sense, though, I never really thought of myself as a writer. I have always loved history, and have sought to be an active participant in the history of our times—a husband, father, grandfather, member of the community, community organizer, lawyer. My writing flows out of and complements my life. Part of that life is people—I love people. I love to listen to them, hear their stories, see things from their point of view. And (I hope) that love comes through in my stories.
P53: Inspiration or perspiration?
AP: Inspiration! Almost all my best work starts with flashes of inspiration—poetry and stories that seem to flow through me. Then comes the craftsmanship—which I truly enjoy—of finding the right approach, the precise words, the way of describing a scene, of portraying the inner essence of a character. This is work, but such enjoyable work it is a pleasure. If I really perspire too much over a poem or a story, it usually doesn’t work out well.
P53: What’s your desert island book?
AP: I love G.K. Chesterton’s answer to this question: “a manual for building a boat.” Such admirable practicality aside, I would take (in order)—1) a Jerusalem Bible, 2) my complete works of Shakespeare, 3) a large book of blank pages (with some pens) for writing, and 4) a big, fat anthology of short stories.
P53: What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
AP: The American political system. We should ponder the work of Wendell Berry.
P53: You can only eat one food for the rest of your life; what is it?
AP: What a horrible thought! The joy of eating—as in life—is diversity.
Three Facts About Arthur:
1) My father and both grandfathers were professional musicians
2) I greatly admire St. Theresa of Avila
3) Our granddaughter, who lives with us, has a red-eared slider (which, to those not from the South, is a turtle) named alternately Scooter and Myrtle (we’re not quite sure whether our turtle’s a girl or a boy).
It’s Friday, it’s spring, all is right with the world. Here’s some black comedy courtesy of Ray Morrison; you can find more sharp stories (and some touching ones, some beautiful ones, some laugh out loud ones) in his debut collection, In a World of Small Truths.
When I hear the faint crunch of gravel at the bottom of the driveway, there is no more than a trace of pink where the sky meets the edge of the newly planted tobacco field across the road. The air is hot, hotter than usual for spring, and sounds carry farther, so I know it’ll be nearly a minute before Ethan’s faded and dented pickup will crest the hump of the drive just beyond the gate. Despite this, my hand reaches for the shotgun lying across my lap.
The smell of coming rain is strong through the screen door where I’ve parked my chair so I’ll have a clear view of the gate. I am glad; it hasn’t rained in almost three weeks and the new tobacco plants need it. Holding on to the day’s last light like a stingy child, the sky is the color of ashes. The escalating sound of tires sliding over loose stones stops abruptly and, when I squint, I can just make out the shape of Ethan’s truck on the other side of the fence. I lift the gun and balance the barrel with my left hand. Several minutes pass with no movement from the pickup. Behind the house, a chuck-will’s-widow calls his name from the edge of the trees. In front of the tobacco barn, bats plunge in graceful arcs to get their fill of the season’s first mosquitoes. I keep still, confident I’m invisible in the darkness of the house.
When I hear the squeak of the car door’s rusted hinges, I sit up and slide my hand along the gun’s stock until I feel the trigger guard. In spite of the heat, the metal is cool against my finger. Ethan is just a moving shadow, but I watch him climb the gate, the metal moaning under his weight. I make out the silhouette of his own shotgun swinging from his right hand as he approaches the house.
“Ben Hoffman, you in there? This here’s Ethan Stiny. We need to talk.”
“Ben’s here, Ethan,” I say. “But he ain’t comin’ out, so you’d best just head on back home now.”
I watch his head shift back and forth, trying to locate me, giving me confidence that I’m still hidden, and offering me a slight advantage for the time being.
“Now, Rachel, this is between us men. You stay out of it.”
“I don’t know. If you think about it, it has a great deal to do with me, don’t you think?”
“I suppose so, but the settlin’ is going to be by Ben and me. I don’t aim for you to get hurt.” His outline inches toward the porch.
“Neither do I, Ethan, but the fact of the matter is, Ben’s not coming outside. And I feel it’s my obligation to remind you that, right now, you are trespassing on our property, so if you don’t want to get hurt, just turn around and get back in your truck and head out of here.”
“Can’t do that, Rachel. You know what he done.”
“Yeah, I do. I can’t really say I see what the attraction is, but what’s done is done, I guess.”
Ethan stops walking. He is about five feet from the bottom porch step and looking right at me. He’s gotten close enough to see me—and my gun—through the screen door. A series of loud pings on the tin roof tells me that the rain has arrived.
“You need to reconcile this with Elizabeth,” I say. “Ben’s already told me he doesn’t plan on seeing your wife again. And, for what it’s worth, I believe him.”
“Well, you’re dumber than I thought, Rachel. And you don’t need worry that I ‘reconciled’ with Elizabeth. If you was to see her right now, you’d see the reconcilin’ all over her.” He wipes rain out of his eyes and puts his foot on the bottom step. “Now I’m getting wet out here, so I don’t want any more bullshit. Send that chickenshit husband of yours out here right now so we can be done with this thing!”
The shotgun blast echoes in the quiet house, and the smoke blinds me. I stand and wave my arm to clear the air. Through the hole in the screen, I see Ethan lying on the ground, pressing his left hand against his shoulder, trying to stop the bleeding. I push open the screen door with my foot, its usual creaking lost in the ringing in my ears. I keep the gun aimed at Ethan as I walk down to where his own gun has fallen and kick it across the damp dirt of the yard.
“That was the last warning shot you get,” I say. Ethan lies shaking and even though it is now full dark, I’m close enough to see his face has lost its color. “Do you think you can get up?”
He nods slowly and groans as he bends at the waist, managing to get into a sitting position. A bat swoops close to his head and then moves off across the tobacco field. Ethan slips twice trying to stand, so I grab his good elbow to help him to his feet. The rain has made his skin slick and he nearly falls. I step back and level the shotgun at his belly. I shake my head to clear the rain from my face.
“This ain’t done, Rachel. Not by a long shot.” His right arm is covered with blood and in the warm, wet air I can smell the iron-y thickness of it.
“It’s over, Ethan. Be reasonable, you hear? I’d better not see you near this place again, or you’ll be dead before you cross that gate. Now go home and tend to your cheating wife, and let me tend to my cheating husband.”
“We’ll see what the sheriff has to say about all this.”
“Fine. But until then, get the hell off my property.” I cock the hammer on the unused barrel.
Ethan sways and I know he wants to say more, but he is getting weak and leaking blood and realizes he’d better get some medical attention, quick. He starts walking toward where his shotgun has landed under an azalea bush on the side of the house.
“No, sir,” I say. “You leave that gun right where it is.”
He doesn’t look at me or try to challenge me, just turns and lurches toward the gate. By the time he reaches it, he is lost in the blackness. I stand in the rain, listening to him fumble with the chain and eventually hear the low moan of the metal once again as he climbs over. The truck’s door slams and it is several minutes before I hear the engine start up. When Ethan pulls on the headlights, they are aimed right where I am standing, lighting me up like I’m onstage. Blinded to him by the bright beams, I nod, knowing he can see me clearly. The truck backs away slowly, and the lights bounce as it goes over the bulge in the ground. Soon, I can no longer see or hear the pickup.
I lower the shotgun to my side and rub the ache in my right shoulder from holding it up so long. I head into the house, letting the screen door slam behind me. In the kitchen, I find a dish towel to dry my face and to soak as much rain from my hair as possible. Then I go toward the back of the house, to the mud room, where Ben is. I think about how Ethan said Ben is a chickenshit coward, and it pains me to realize how true that is. After eight years of marriage, it is heartbreaking to find out the man I love with all my heart is not who I think he is. Not even man enough to just admit he’s been whoring around with that no-good, slutty Elizabeth Stiny, even after I tell him Maeve Cox has seen him, plain as day, humping Elizabeth in the backseat of her LTD behind the Piggly Wiggly.
In the mud room, I swat at flies and push open the back door, jamming a stick underneath to prop it open. I slide the tarp off Ben and stare down at his body. Even in the absence of regret, I wince at the gaping hole in his crotch. Stringy tissue hangs from the wound, making me look up, toward the hole in his chest, which somehow looks neat compared to the mess below it. Ben’s face is oddly calm, so unlike how it looked just before I called him on his lies.
I smell the rain again and look out into the black night, grateful for the water soaking the tobacco field, bringing life to the delicate early plants and softening the ground there to make the work ahead easier.