The Lord Giveth, the Lord Taketh Away
by Fred Longworth

The great river overflows its banks
and once again the levees are too timid.
Justin watches from a second-story window
as the flood comes on, crossing the fields
like slow fire in rain-drenched woods.
Already, the John Deere is kneeling on its rail,
and the pigs are splashing leeward
toward the hillock behind the barn.

After the last disaster, his brother Will
suggested that he build a masonry wall
around his house, forearm deep and set
into the earth like a farmer's hopes,
rising a foot, maybe two-feet taller
than the high-water mark.
Look how it saved Mr. Olssen's house.

But there was never money, and the time
would need be taken from the planting
and the harvest toil. The mayor urged
insurance, but profits were so lean
that if made leaner by the premiums
he may as well give up, and move to
Kansas City like his uncle Bob.

Water nudges at the tractor's shoulders;
a pair of crows perches atop the cab;
and suddenly the clouds let through
a sliver of the sun. Surely, the Lord
is speaking through these rays,
as the bread is broken in the sky.
Justin turns toward the wife and children,
who wait behind him, doing anxious vigil
in the shadows of the room.
He gives a nod. As the farm shall perish,
so tomorrow shall we build and plant.

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