Mowing with Cutlasses


Twenty right arms, sometimes together, but mostly not,

arc cutlasses in wide, irregular swings, nearly throwing themselves

off balance, back and forth, back and forth

shearing grass, knotted weeds from deep roots, spraying the shorn mulch,

like elephants hip shod on the treeless sun-baked plains

hurling their trunks high and flinging fistfuls of dust.

But these men are not at play. Each leans on a straight tree limb

shorn this morning as a staff to steady himself while he bends,

slicing close to the red soil without losing his toe.

The grass flies and in one corner of the field a cutlass snags. The laborer

lifts his machete. Draped across the blade a bright green snake struggles

to hold on to a fat toad lodged in his jaws, unable to let go.

By the edge of the road a man places

a worn whetstone in the dirt; the tsk of steel on stone.


Cape Coast, Ghana

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