Appetites in the barnyard bawled
for more feed than the grain bins
offered, so we looked for corn
to buy. Sure, one of the neighbors
said, I’ll sell you this round crib.
So we measured the corncrib. Now what,
I said. Figure the number of bushels,
he said, multiply by the price . . .
You ever go to school? Yeah, I said,
but in arithmetic class we papered
rooms with doors and windows. His pencil
flickered, area times height and
divide by 2.5 equals 850 bushels.
Multiply by $2.20—you can do that?
I nodded. He wasn’t through.
Two-and-a-half cubic feet for
each bushel . . . how many cubic feet
in the world for each person?
What do you mean, I asked. People,
goddamit, people, how much room
for people, not factories or
four-lane highways, or shopping centers,
but people. Room for a guy to
have a garden, a yard, a place for
trees, hammock, croquet set.
Man, I said, you live in the past.
But not in a condominium, he said.
You know what’s the trouble? People
don’t care for people, nobody gives
a damn for people, not even people.
Nations stand with their britches
bristling with six-shooters, glaring
at each other, daring each other,
who’s the Bill Hickok to make the
fastest draw. I wrote him a check.
Glad they taught you to multiply,
he said. People multiply, where can they go
when mother earth finds herself layered
and cross-layered with all the damn junk
that takes up room? No wilderness left,
not even shady backyards . . . pipelines,
high tension towers, blasted developers
with their shoebox houses . . . We will
come and get corn next week,
I told him. Probably be a new airfield
here by then, he muttered. I drove away.
You’ll see, he yelled, you’ll see
how much people care for people.