Posted by: Oklahoma Sun | January 12, 2010

Forty Below.

Forty Below.

Elliott C. Lincoln. Rhymes of a Homesteader, 1920.


FORTY below! the dead hills rise
Till their cold fields blend with colder skies,
A blue-white glitter that blurs the sight
With floating dots of ebonite,
And the frost-filled air makes each hard breath
Stab at my throat like a spear of death.

Down by the creek the cattle crush
Into shreds the rattling willow brush;
Rough, bony cattle with staring coats;
Their dull eyes watch the starved coyotes
That are slowly drifting, hunger-spurred,
To the weakest calf in the weakened herd.

Crunching and squeaking, blowing steam
From white-rimmed nostrils, comes a team;
Their driver beating his mittened hands
In frantic haste. He understands
That life itself is touch-and-go,
Out in the hell of forty below.