Tractor

More than a storey high and twice that long,

it looks igneous, the Buhler Versatile 2360,

possessed of the ecology of some hellacious

minor island on which options

are now standard. Cresting the sections

in a corona part dirt, part heat, it appears

risen full-blown from our deeper needs,

aspirating its turbo-cooled air, articulated

and fully compatible. What used to take a week

it does in a day on approximately

a half-mile to the gallon. It cost one hundred

fifty grand. We hope to own it outright by 2017.

Few things wrought by human hands

are more sublime than the Buhler Versatile 2360.

 

Across the road, a crew erects the floodlit

derricks of a Texan outfit whose presumptions

are consistently vindicated.

The ancient sea bed will be fractured to 1000 feet

by pressuring through a pipe literal tons

of a fluid — the constituents of which

are best left out of this —

to tap the sweet gas where it lies like the side

our bread is buttered on. The earth shakes

terribly then, dear Houston, dear parent

corporation, with its re-broken dead and freshly

killed, the air concussive, cardiac, irregular.

It silences the arguments of every living thing

and our minds in that time are not entirely elsewhere.

 

But I was speaking of the Buhler Versatile 2360

Phase D! And how well recognized it is

among the classics: Wagner,

Steiger, International Harvester, John Deere, Case,

Minneapolis-Moline, Oliver, White, Allis-Chalmers,

Massey Ferguson, Ford, Rite, Rome.

One could say it manifests fate, forged

like a pearl around the grit of centuries. That,

in a sense, it’s always been with us,

the diesel smell of a foregone conclusion.

In times of doubt, we cast our eyes

upon the Buhler Versatile 2360

and are comforted. And when it breaks down, or thinks

itself in gear and won’t, for our own good, start,

it takes a guy out from the city at 60 bucks an hour

plus travel and parts, to fix it.

Karen Solie, “Tractor” from Pigeon (House of Anansi Press, 2009). Copyright © 2009 Karen Solie. 

Source: Pigeon (House of Anansi Press, 2009).

Dive in: 
  1. The poet Karen Solie grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan. What does this poem tell you about the speaker’s view of farm life?
  2. It’s helpful to know that this poem was first published in The Walrus in 2008, so the line “We hope to own it outright by 2017” was looking nearly a decade into the future at the time. What do these details about the cost of the tractor suggest about the economics of farming in Canada?
  3. What is going on across the road from the farm in this poem?
  4. Do you get the sense that the tractor works for the farm or that the farm works for the tractor? How does the poet elevate the machine above everything else around it?
  5. If you were going to recite this poem, what tone would you use? Lofty? Breezy? Who do you imagine the speaker is talking to?
  6. Write a poem about an inanimate object in your life. Be playful, but try to say something interesting about your life through the way you present this object.

Useful Links

Read our micro-interview with Karen Solie: http://www.poetryinvoice.com/poets/karen-solie

 

See Karen read from her most recent book, The Road In Is Not the Same Road Out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaFqFmLP34Q

 

Check out this Google image search on the Buhler Versatile 2360:

https://www.google.ca/search?q=Buhler+Versatile+2360&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjFzNbkrsLPAhUBST4KHZsBAwYQ_AUICSgC&biw=1280&bih=682

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