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Farming is a profession of hope.
~ Brian Brett
I am delighted to share these poems by Nova Scotia poets who share food and farm affection, recollections and reflections, humour, and calls to action. Open Heart Farming poetry is dedicated to our food providers and all who love to get dirt under their nails.
Mary Ellen Sullivan
Open Heart Farming Poetry Harvester
OHFarming 2016 Team: Georgia Atkin, Lois Brison Brown, Paul Brown, and Mary Ellen Sullivan.
Dedicated to those who dream of the day when there will be food for all.
Harvesting some crops.
Feeding all the animals.
Working in the fields.
rowdy and gregarious
oozing testosterone and a puerile joy
always in packs they come
like a troupe of ravenous river dancers
cupboards and fridges fear their passing
as progenitors can but smile
careful to leave a wide berth
You feathered fiend!
Stealer of eggs and worse
destroyer of the web-footed
those who fornicate with vicious abandon
but settle gently to hatch their progeny
Gone! Merely tattered ribbons of flesh
littered remains of my once proud flock
while you in your sleek arrogance strut
trailing malevolence in a place of peace
The crows recognize your evil
calling to me as ally in their attack
Secretly I load the gun but you sense this
smirking, insouciant, chest puffed
head tilted just enough before you fly
We had an agreement, truth to say, a truce
soon shredded by the cruelty of your beak
No more praising now with rhyming words
your wisdom, your tones of shining colour
for indeed the darkness penetrates too deep
with my pen now trading for a killing tool
sullied muse as carcass, hanging from a tree
is how you’ll be immortalized.
The first break in the earth
After long winter’s chill
Like letting go a held breath
Like a sigh of relief
This is the beginning
This first solitary dark mark
From this, the season’s bounty
Unfolds gradually in time
The engine brings me forward
Pulling it out across the land
An empty furrow waiting
An open promise of possibilities
Now multiplied over the field
A pattern that has long sustained us
I look back on it
And feel it in my bones, my flesh, my blood
For what will sprout there
Will soon become me
Apple blossoms. White novas.
Springtime ping: you’re in the clouds.
For Arthur, 82, another day with chores.
Pails of water for cows from dawn.
Hauling hay. Straight from ancient mythology.
Mount Olympus, North and South.
Here, stables to clean.
Shovel manure. Liquid manure.
A calf just born. Arthur loves those animals
He sometimes has to kill
Barely making ends meet.
Calves. Heifers. Simmenthals. Charolais.
Last Fall as we drove to the Fair
We hit New Grafton.
Grafton, New Germany, Caledonia.
Grafton in Maine. Many more I’m sure. Borders?
Land of old Loyalist stock, land of US Rebels:
Same land, same cows, same hay, same manure.
Maybe farmers in the other Graftons
Also end sentences with “Yum, yum” and a guffaw.
Holstein calf all wobbly. Steady one hoof.
Wobble, stumble, sway, and teeter. Wet, lost.
Chatting about colostrum.
Lurch, stumble, totter, wiggle. Up
And coming. Mother restless, voice unknown.
We’re here. Birth, life, center of the world.
No borders to life or land.
Manure and apple blossoms.
May in the Valley.
When I walk in the woods
I don’t see things I normally would.
Would I see a chicken? Would I see a bear?
I don’t know, does anyone care?
But when I saw that chicken
It was as smooth as molasses
It had a ‘stache and black sunglasses
When I got up close, as a matter of fact
I noticed him wearing my father’s top hat
He had a leather jacket, from years gone by
And around his neck, a furry bow tie
But when I got one step closer, he started to dance
I was thinking “why would a chicken prance?”
Wait a second, those are my shoes!
I looked down
Would he take my shoes if he could?
Yes he would!
In a second he saw me
He was acting cool
I’ll teach you a lesson you can’t learn in school:
Run away from the funky chicken.
I bought myself a new John Deere
And received a dear John
I think I saw her shed a tear
Because the money’s gone
She will be back to see the crop
That me and John have sown
Realizing all is not a flop
I wish she would have known
The food is good and in the mud
There was no need to go
With horses underneath the hood
Heated cab and radio
Gloss green envy it must be
I hope I can survive
Going to bring her home to me
And both go for a drive
“Dirt” has got a dirty name
Its notorious fame may not be as bad
as “grime” or “slime” but its name is mud
Add some water and you’ll see
Just how muddy dirt can be
Poor dirt. It gets a bad rap
People step all over it and track
… it over floors and rugs
and this really bugs… the dirt haters
who stamp it out with chemical warfare
Eradicating dirt till there’s no more there
Till that dirt is just, tiny particles of dust
Why do I care you ask? About dirt’s past?
Well, dirt means the Earth to me!
It keeps me grounded
It is a place to stand and a place to grow
It is something to dig and something to hoe
It’s the sand and land where seedlings curl
It makes up my whole world!
Dirt has got a dirty name
But it shouldn’t be blamed
for our planet’s mess
I think it’s time to celebrate
grime and all its quirks
I’m not afraid to admit it… I really dig dirt!
I woke up one morning,
Tired, hungry, and broke.
With pen in hand, paper in place,
Following words, I wrote.
For sale sixty acres, readied for the plough,
Laying in my barn next to haymow.
For sale wee brook running through my land,
Waking seed sowed by my hand.
For sale my old work boots,
Will throw in rocking chair,
My old lunch pail, and ragged coat,
Hanging on porch nail.
For sale bankers promise,
Broken and bent,
For sale broken spirit,
For sale body spent.
The weight of August
exhausts both farm and farmer.
Tarnished gold fields and well-worn meadow
shimmer into mirage,
thirsty for rain.
A thin, copper-hued stream glistens slowly
through old forest,
past orchards heavy with sunlight.
Goldenrod and Queen Anne’s lace
trace the dusty roadside;
the stillness pierced by the chit-chit-chit
drone of a cicada.
An ear flicks away a persistent fly
amongst a gathering of lethargic bovines.
They nest in the purple shade,
beneath umbrellas of wrinkled maple.
Cow eyes glaze with shameless euphoria
as each regurgitated mouthful of summer
is savoured again
Hand to mouth,
farm to table,
through the drouth,
willing and able,
freed not strange,
all points moot,
hide the parch,
glebes they march,
From sprout to yield,
through the vein,
out the field,
and back again.
As he looked down at the damp spring soil
It felt cold in his hands on that early April morning,
The first square foot of the 2 acres
That would be planted by early summer.
One of six, now with six of his own
There would soon be shouts and laughs and music
Coming from the house as another day broke,
The old milk cow now lowing in the cowshed
Ready for his morning visit.
The garden, the pasture, the hay field, the barn
And wild meat from the nearby woods
Would nourish his family in days to come,
Blueberries along the railway tracks—the only sign of
The industry that drew him and his neighbors in,
For the next shift.
Standing with one foot in his agrarian past,
And the other in tradesman’s boots,
He took the cool, smoky dawn deep into his lungs
Not knowing that as the harvest came to an end,
He would be facing a strike that would last
Through the long cold winter.
But the land did not let him down
The Christmas table still overflowed
With treats from the root cellar:
Red tomatoes, squash pies, and sweet mustard beans
With some left over to share.
Life’s patchwork landscape,
Transcending from, but rooted in, the Earth.
Seeded in the earth of my ancestors
Nurtured in the soil of their fields
Waiting for the heat of their sun
Drinking in the waters of their rain
I grow upwards into their light.
Lebanese hands make
pita wraps from heaven with
garlic & lemon
Earth, land, soil, dirt–what is it?
“Your hands are dirty–go wash.”
…………………..Dirt’s for getting off, removal.
Soil’s richer, porous.
Something soiled is cleaner than something dirty,
With its overtones of the forbidden, sinful.
Land–goes on and on until it comes to Ocean
Ocean tries to grab more of it.
And it can, warming climate helping.
It’s cut in pieces you can own
But who can own the elements?
The feedstock of survival
Not just for our burgeoning species,
But for all that call earth home.
Earth. Whole planet’s sometimes called that.
Sounds rich and spongy.
We could tuck our extra carbon in its holes.
They could hold the key to keeping death at bay.
Soaking up rain, pushing up crops
Twirling round our sun, and never done.
Weather, land, soil, and toil
has etched the Farmer’s soul.
Through battles fought with Pests and Blights,
his harvest will be gold.
Growing Season now ends,
and comfort foods begin – to nourish and enjoy.
Rest awhile dear Farmer Friend,
and have a slice of Pie.