Vol. 2, No. 1, ISSN 2369-2944
Poetry Harvester: Mary Ellen Sullivan
Editor: Donal Power
Georgia Atkin – Epic
Jenni Blackmore – Praise the Humble Potato
Lois Brison-Brown – Sweet Lay the Hay
Paul Brown – The Robin
Normand Carrey – Little Accomplishments
Sophie Clark – Summersaulting in Salt Water
Ron Gillis – Untethered
Audrey Greenhalgh – Sweet Slumber
Emily Krauss – My Mothers Garden
Erica Lewis – Insatiable Appetite
Sylvia Mangalam – Fall Rite
Mike McFetridge – Farming Is A Business
Chad Norman – Insistence
Jaywant Patil – Fruitless Tree
Sandra Phinney – Farmer’s Lament
Cheryl Pink – Connections
Mary Ellen Sullivan – Alfalfa Meditation
Elzy Taramangalam – Wall of Hope
Joan Young – My Garden
“Just an apple”? You say it’s JUST an apple?
Well, I’m afraid I must disagree,
deviate from this rather bland definition,
before this apple arrived in the bin
at the market…
…it began as a seed within the soil,
fed by the pouring rain and effervescent sun,
encouraged by wild bees
and slowly, ever so slowly,
a tree came into existance,
reaching upwards for the sky it felt nearby,
miniature flowers on its branches
gradually transforming into something more:
an object full of sweetness
which grew larger and larger
until at last
a hand plucked it off the branch
and carried it away,
and that apple (for that is what it was)
travelled for miles beneath the sky
and the stars, a journey to a strange future,
it came to rest
in your hand.
Place them gently in each drill
one inch deep and same apart for spinach
sprinkle lettuce light and similarly cover
not too deep, not too close. . .
but sparse is what the rows seem now
too distant and forlorn
on this grey soggy day of boot-stick earth
yet soon enough the seedlings, sprouted
nudge and jostled, vie for space
within the rows transformed
a cramped metropolis of leaf and bud
alive with slugs and bugs voracious
Lay hair-thin leeks in trenches primed
rich with humus and dreams of distant soup
pot shared by white earth-eggs
already creeping their first fingers
from the wizened skin of kin
snugged warm under an eelgrass quilt
which will in time reveal a bounty
harvested with no complaints
in this less fertile corner of the plot
where tomatoes stubbornly refuse
zucchinis dither and onions sulk in limbo
but where potatoes, never loved or lauded
half as much as they deserve
silent and in secret, prodigiously produce
Sweet lay the hay
And hazy the light through
The loft window
High and full the yield
Of a good year,
Relief for answered prayer
Come in soft sighs of hallelujah.
Heavy leather harnesses are hung
On sweat stained pegs
Of the granary wall,
Its bin so full
The oats leak out from the chute
Like crumbs falling
From hungry mouths.
The mice nibble hurried feasts
While the cat bides her time
Watching the kittens play.
In the distance the cow bells clink closer,
Chiming to the radio’s familiar tune
As warm wet cloths and new straw;
Scoured buckets and careful hands
Await the homeward herd.
One day as I leaned heavily with sweat upon my hoe,
A robin lit upon the tallest, nearest pea staking pole
Not content with an indifferent worm obsessing dance
It looked in my direction, deliberately askance,
“What now,” I thought, “you red breasted priest of spring,” “Does your head tilting confidence speak of curiosity
or some deeper thing?”
It answered not, no trill, no lull, no song,
But fixed me with a wide eyed glance that bade me look along,
As it flitted down and staked a claim on my freshly tilled earth, And, then, not without an apparent sense of mirth,
Began a hop-hop harvest of worms and things and mites,
Til bulging cheeks at last betrayed its full delight.
Then back to the pea pole pulpit, with uncertain flight,
To both of us I’m sure a most disquieting sight,
A quick embarrassed swallow put it and me at ease,
Then with, I swear, an unspoken “if you please,”
It seemed to say, “Mark, human, this thing that you call spring,
Is no matter for idle wondering.
It does not sit a splash of red upon this robin’s breast,
It lies in you, a constant yearning quest,
To make and show your worth, and live at one with Earth.”
That said in a throaty throbbing chirp,
It flew fast away to the forest stand, like a ruddy feathered dart, Leaving me a harvest already in my heart.
In rotunda of university portraits stand, CEOs
proffering cheques eclipsing acts that pass by-
unnoticed. Hello I am Jin Lee-came to Canada
with son to join father, who left us with no support.
I work in chemistry practicing poverty level pay.
Come, let’s frolic in Coulees, and run mad like
Quentin Heavy Head. She told about 7500 year
cliff-museum, nearby Blood Nation echoed
Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump. A brave fallen,
body crushed by tumbling buffalo. She invited us-
tea in her apartment. Eric played computer game
awkward laugh made her smile vicarious, but her
face showed stain of years, unpaid domestic work
underground charity. Despite fragrance of frugality,
her canonical devotion left him wanting for nothing.
She was a little woman with a guerilla of a laugh.
Busying herself, she offered pepper-seeded pappadum
and flatbread injected with pressed mint leaves
from her garden, spice and sacrifice leavened in steam
water of farmer’s market carrots, celery and bok choi.
While tea steeped in its bergamot aroma, she served
a genial feast, years flowing in a liturgy of necessity
the tea, her contagious guerilla laugh, making us giddy.
We wanted to leave gifts; tokens, small appreciations.
Pressing maple syrup bottle into her hand she grinned
like a portrait in a rotunda. Next morning we opened
door to find a bag full of dew, fresh cut mint leaves
and the economy of nourishment.
Trying to breathe in the salted sweet
Of maritime morn’ and violin beat.
Gulls that cry (oh, don’t make it worse)
To mix many salts
Brings upon lonesome curse
Bobbing in ocean
Rolled up and down
The trouble lies truly upon earthen ground,
Solid and steady, in no way it yields –
I admit to be yearning for vegetable fields.
Loamy, thick brown-ness
‘Unclean’ with dirt,
Sweating humanity, worn cotton shirts
Like warriors of toil
Bathing deeply in soil-
Most romanticize sundrenched travail (as do I)
I do, when asked
Of my time before East,
Speak soft of July- its harvested feast,
Poetize August- earned work made most honest.
Once consumed by the source that feeds all I am,
The soul ever drinks
Summer salt (how I swam).
Cruel, demanding, harsh
In no way it yields,
Mama, you made me in those vegetable fields!
My field sleeps in Winter, beneath a blanket of snow,
Patiently awaiting, in Spring to be sowed,
Crop bursting to fullness, in warm Summer sun,
Untethered in Autumn, my harvest is done.
Last night I dreamed of blueberry meadows,
Strawberry fields and dandelion wine.
Fruit trees abounded with peaches and apples,
Figs and dates and grapes on the vine.
I saw colorful wildflowers and sweet summer grasses,
The birds in the tree tops were singing my name.
As I stood gazing, a cool breeze caressed me
Lifting my spirit to a new higher plane.
The clouds in the blue sky lazily drifted
As I was watching in silent repose,
I saw tulips and lilacs and bright yellow daisies,
Beside the small stream, I plucked a wild rose.
Suddenly awakened from dreamy sweet slumber,
I wept as the heavenly scenes faded by,
Then to my wonder, right there in my bedroom,
Wildflowers and fruit and dandelion wine.
A garden full of
Mysteries and surprises,
A place my mother
Can enjoy leisure
And be creative
Carrots, orange and green
Growing under dirt
Sprouting on bean fences
Cabbage, green and purple
Looking like miniature pumpkins
Lettuce looking fresh
And ready to eat
And near the vegetables
Sit tulips, roses and daffodils
My mother’s garden,
A place full of effort and hard work,
Controlled by nature and weather
And full of riches worth more than money
Filling up your dreams,
stuffing you with themes
of chocolate dreamy,
With lemon schaum torte,
I’ll build you a fort;
fill up your tummy,
make you feel yummy.
With sweet chestnut jam
and juicy roast lamb;
a pistachio square
to be served with flair.
So you must say please
for some feta cheese;
a salad I’ll toss
so you’ll know who’s boss.
Down on bended knee,
I shall serve you tea;
if you make me blue,
no dessert for you!
The Kentucky Blue beans swelled
Bigger than they should.
Tired of the garden,
I picked them anyway.
It’s a sort of rite
This anticlimactic harvest
Reaching for the high fat ones,
Rounded over full seeds.
Gathering up the dry corn–
What can I do with this?
The last green tomatoes,
Last marjoram sprigs–
This genuflecting gleaning
Respects all the work here
Of God, of worms, of me.
Farming is a business,
And it’s always been so;
And like other business,
Farming’s about grow;
But there the similarity
With other business may end;
For farming’s about real life,
And upon life depends.
Upon life it depends,
But the opposite is true;
Life depends on farming
For me and for you;
Without local food
We risk going hungry my friend,
For if we can’t feed ourselves
On others we can’t depend.
So support local farming,
And local arts, too;
For it’s all about strengthening
The me’s and the you’s;
The smaller the world
May eventually become,
The more important the farming
During many moments when midmorning
wasn’t about dusting, meals, or others,
Gladys left the kitchen to slip into rubber boots
she wore when it came time to visit the barn,
tiny rubbers part of each slow step
on ice spread across the glaring yard
taken to happily refill the big milk jar
helpful grandsons stop chores to carry
in one hand as she agrees to hold his other
stepping up out of the steaming milkhouse
quick to chuckle about accepting a safety
getting easier to offer, quick to blame winter,
quick to insist he hand over the raw frosty milk
and return to the herd’s more important needs.
The farmer about to chop down the tree
which had been fruitless for year three.
Give me another chance begged the tree.
I will be fruitful for sure next year,
if you fertilize and dig around me this year.
Every one deserves a second chance sire.
Where, oh where
do they come from
Wasn’t it just
and all the springs before
that we diligently
back wrenching effort
lugged and hauled
hauled and lugged
to sweep the fields
clean of this plague.
Does earth’s belly
belch them out each spring
or do they simply migrate
in the dead of winter
drawn and directed
by the Grand Master’s hand
to scrape the knuckles
of our souls?
We did not name it then;
my grandmotherʼs Advent ritual.
Unholy, holistic, it kept us, bound us to the land;
made the house a home.
Four sundays, nine lessons, forty days, the Tree of Jesse;
these defined the moment but rendered
suet and well plucked fowl set it forever in my memory.
Hot parting-out in gallon kettles infused the air;
my grandmotherʼs Advent kitchen.
Pungent suet-stench in curtains, cushions and clothes;
small price to pay for a mince begun in liquid tallow.
Dried fruit, distilled spirits and spices made it worthwhile.
Pluck to “goosebump” shiver-skin, “drumstick” leg tie;
my grandmotherʼs Advent barn-chore.
Turkey, inversely rafter-strung and gizzard stuffed;
Christmas wish, awaiting the roast.
Then, it was joyous heartbeat of abundance;
gifts agrarian, from Edenʼs outstretched limb:
now, it is ʻback to the land movementʻ, marketing
with fervor, the sum of many acts.
My morning walking meditation
………………breathe... feel your feet on the ground
Can’t feel the ground... Shoes and sidewalk
Used to run barefoot down our gravel lane.
Get the mail, stub my big toe.
By summer the soles of my feet would be tough.
……………..come back to your breathing
I’m passing people with my farmer’s stride.
Trying to keep up with Dad pacing out the field,
calculating straight furrows.
……………..slow down, feel your body
Heading to the Four Corners leaping ha ha
through field of tangled alfalfa
knee high, sweet scent teasing,
trying to hold me.
……………..take a deep breath, in and out
Dad saying – Spray alfalfa? Why spray a crop
so thick weeds can’t take hold?
……………..feel your arms, your legs heavy
Back home, climbing stairs, shedding coat.
No, not home... My farm.
Alfalfa paved over.
……………let go of thinking, feel your body
Bare feet missing the warmth of
rich Guelph loam, the give of plants.
Some things you can’t control.
……………..be gentle on yourself, breathe
A wall of climbing hops
Behind my house!
Stringing the hops
Has a nice ring to it.
The bitter cousin of grapes
Gives aroma to beer
Gets high on poles
Goes up and down in value that is
And are tough survivors
For dry moral lessons
As in timeless fables
Don’t let yourself down
We have a hotline to heaven
A hawser to anchor all hopes.
Peas, carrots, turnips and greens
Potatoes, beans and tomatoes too
Don’t forget the beets, cucumbers
and other vegetable seeds
Planted, hoed and cleared of weeds.
They grow in rows of beauty
Red, green and yellow
and shades in between
Planted late in May
and hope for sun everyday.
Watered by summer showers
Kissed by the sun
The bounty of my garden
It’s a gardeners delight
What a wonderful sight.