PAPOTAGE

When I was sixteen, ink still fresh
on my driver’s license, my father
brought home a rusted relic from his past:
the tractor from his childhood

home.  My father made a living
scrapbook on that bulky machine, fashioned
a space for my mother’s garden.
My uncle, who traded his tractor

seat for one with saddlebags, would come
to watch my father churn his own land, 
as I watched him through a sunflower
fence that had grown so tall to separate

my father from me, his past from his present.
My grandmother once found a roll of film,
a stowaway atop her pie safe for forty years.
Sent to Kodak’s headquarters, the cocoon

returned to us these black and white
fossils, my father and his brother:
eight and ten years old again.  Could this boy
in his little league uniform have imagined

his prized tractor then as it is today?
Hours west of the earth he plowed for the family
he was born into, now softening soil
for the family he created.  Wheels once taller

than him, now giants to his daughters. 
And when time has caused the veins
on my childhood hands to emerge, once
sun bleached hair has softened to grey,

I will give my father this—
I will drive his old rusted tractor and park it
in the grass by his weather-worn headstone,
as past and future inevitably become present.