FeedLots and Football
Twenty-seven below at the feed lot
Along the Cache La Poudre River,
East flank of Ft. Collins, Colorado.
The dawn sky looks like blue ice.
Steam rises off the hunched backs of frozen cattle.
Loyal, the ex-con foreman who lives in a downwind single-wide,
And a few other boys use axes on the troughs
To get the water moving again. By eight everyone
Begs for an indoor coffee break to warm their hands and feet
Before trucking feed up and down the aisles,
Spreading hot reeking silage to the hungry stock.
Later, when the sun melts the top layer
Of manure and mud in the pens, not enough
To suck your boots off but enough
To keep you from slipping on the hard ridges
And breaking your neck when you fall,
It’s time to medicate and treat the bloat:
Run a steer into a holding pen, jam a steel cylinder
Into his mouth, feed a rubber tube down his throat
And be sure you’re not on the business end
When the trapped gas escapes in a hot hissing rush.
After eight or nine hours at two-fifty per,
Go home, strip out of your overalls on the porch,
Lather up under a hot shower until the smell and cold is gone.
Eat dinner, drink a few beers,
Watch some TV and go to bed.
Around this time in December ’72,
On a frozen Sunday afternoon
After forty years of failure in a dying steel town,
The home football team takes part in a miracle.
Steam rises from the throats of hulking players
And fifty-thousand roaring fans.
Down by a point to the archrival in a big playoff game.
With only seconds left on the clock.
The scrambling quarterback zips a desperation pass downfield
In the direction of Fuqua, who, even if he catches it,
Will be instantly tackled by surrounding defenders.
Instead, Tatum deflects the ball
Back toward Harris, the onrushing rookie running back,
Who, inches before it hits the ground,
Reaches down and snatches the ball from the turf with both hands,
Like an eagle plucking a fish from the surf,
Soars thirty yards into the end zone for the winning score.
Pandemonium in Pittsburgh! Steelers win!
A city saved by the Immaculate Reception!
On Monday morning,
Steel mill and feedlot workers
Bundle for the cold
And go back to work.
No miracle for the livestock, either.
The players eat steak and celebrate,
Prepare for the next big game.