Friday, November 9, 2012

A Poem by Jenny Browne

Always a joy to read authentic mid-west poetry before 
the weekend. Why isn't there more farm and 
family poetry anyhow? 

The Deceased Hope the Farm Remains in the Family for 
By Jenny Browne

    So ended the obituary.
   So begin again with a parable.
   In those days the habit was to call the older people Aunt 
   regardless of relationship. Uncle had a son who was highly 
   son happened to be home from college so Uncle 
started him 
   corn. The seed boxes on the planter hold about a gallon of seed 
   Uncle filled the boxes and left the sack of seed setting at 
the end
   field. The son planted until noon and never re-filled the 
   should have been done three times by mid-morning. The men 
   all afternoon digging in the tracks, trying to figure where 
   run out.
   Or perhaps a photograph:
   I'm not sure who the other woman is, but that's the one
     named for
   No, it's not really a hat. You call it a tea cozy, for the
     She was funny
     like that.
     We spell yours differently, but you say it the same.
   You might (V. suggests) want to try writing that in scenes.
   The back room smelled like Louis L'Amour
          paperbacks--even after
   the farmer's eyes clouded and he switched
          to cassette--Lucky Strikes, weak coffee
   cooling in the Victory Seed Corn mug.
   There are woman hands 
can snap a chicken neck in one twist.
   There is town and town is
   canned peaches,
           volunteer ditch lilies, orange-vested
   prisoners picking up trash in the sun.
   What does not change?
   The davenport best for naps,
   that screen door's quick temper,
   one question: how far, exactly,
   he meant by walking distance?
   Parke County, Indiana (1826)
   Solomon Allen promised the Lord 
that if He would go with 
him to
     where land was cheap, and help him find a home, he 
would never
     leave it.
     With winter at hand, he lived in a rail camp until a cabin 
     The bedstead a homemade one so as constructed 
to require but one
     leg, one side, and one
     end being fastened to the walls of the house. Deer, 
turkey, and
     small game were
     found, and being expert with a gun, 
he furnished an abundance of
     meat for
     the table. At one time, a large bear put in an appearance 
and was
     shot. He was
     a great lover of fruit and introduced many new varieties 
of plants
     to the area,
     including strawberry, which amounted to mania 
in the last years of
     his life.
     Being true to his vow, he never changed 
his residence and died a
     hundred yards
     from where he first stopped his wagon.
   Mom calls to say cousin Marty's getting a new heart, 
and I spend
the rest
           of the day
   saying it possible: Marty's getting a new heart. 
A new heart. A
   Hey barista. Hey dry-cleaning. Hey sashimi, 
my cousin's getting
     heart. He has exactly six hours to go get his new heart.
   Marty and his brother Mike run rigs full 
of Amish hand-turned
   NASCAR track rails, pork, corn, and soybeans all up and 
down Hwy 41.
 Uncle Joe laughs. I got you a whole goddamn field
     of  edamame.
   Corn silks turning just in time.
   Up in the combine, Mike fell to his knees, weeping, 
gripping the cell
   phone. Something wrong? No, nothing's wrong. They got Marty a
   Joe said the tops of Marty's ears were all pink 
when he got out
of the
   operating room. (I just
      wrote operating ring
, which seems fitting, better even).
      Joe's own
   eyes filling, like a baby
   May the daughter
   of the sons and daughters
   of the sons and daughters
   of Solomon say cold
     as a wagon wheel
   if she has never felt one
   shatter upon the frozen
   spine of a dirt road?
   Or think strong
     like the ox
   she does not know
   the flared twin cannon
   of its nose heaving
   as the plow opens row
   after row.
   Can she say swale
          and open her hands empty
   of meaning, mouth full
   of swale?
   On the backside
   of January,
   the farmer's widow
   writes how time
   slow climbs by degree,
   and who called when,
   the exact contents
   of half sandwich eaten.
   Soon tin buckets
   will dangle for sap.
   Call that an almanac.
   Don't call this pastoral,
   her maintaining
   the sound of his
   rider mower filling
   early spring evening
   with wind of green
   onion, and mint.
   Once they had to clean a hundred chickens
 in a single night 
          howl had got
   in the chicken house.
   The howl had got in the chicken house?
     Or If you don't mind I will go 
through the forest and take a
     crooked stick after all?
     Or I likes you. I will go to the bluff and look 
over with you.
   Parke County (1979)
   Dear Ones All,
   I hope the heirlooms, especially furniture, china and glass can be
             among you.
   Rectangle (almost square) Walnut table.
   Oval (spool) belonged to (I am not sure).
   Pedestal table (Marion brought pieces from trash 
pile room 
of Masonic
   Pink rose Havalin plates and cups bought by Ethel Carver
 for Mother
            of first year salary
   teaching at country school "No. 2 Wabash 
Township Parke
   Odd Plates (one each to grand-children).
   1 large glass dish with lid (always had apples in it).
   Leaf pattern fan.
   Blue, red and white linens for when a small child (cold weather) went
   (I was wrapped in it to go home.)
   It is hard about my diamond ring, which your father 
and gave
to me.
   A perfect blue stone. I do not know value.
   Marion said it would buy a Ford if I wanted to sell it.
   Somebody please take good care of it (a lovers gift).
   It's not as deep as it looks.
     On the 40 yard line, with the other trombones. I have the video
     somewhere here
     if you want to see it
     Funny all you can see is sky.
     She wrote poems you know. Some of them 
weren't all bad.
   Today is my 89th birthday.
   Mother nature put on display.
   Trees and shrubbery covered in ice.
   Quite an honor to have things so nice.
   Most of Indiana celebrates the day.
   I feel quite honored I will say.
   Soon I will be done with the eighties.
   Leave them for other big celebrities.
   Glad I can go to the table to dine.
   I never feel good, but Floyd says I'm fine.
   My maker has left me here, a vacancy to fill.
   I hope I've not disappointed in paying my bill.
   But that is enough about me.
   Better quit. It is hard to see.
   what does not change / is the will to change
   allowing I'd be back / but not how
   walking round / rusty sorghum fields
   a kingfisher roosting / high in the chinaberry
   that mouth / always
   seemed a bit / big for her head
   (You might want to try writing that in scenes.)
   Sulfurous winds circle the county hospital in Terre Haute.
   Mom and the Uncles gather bedside.
   Jim whispering Mother, you can go now. It's okay Mother. God is
     here. God's
     with us, Mother. God is here.
   Mother opens one eye, lifts her head for what might 
or might not be
          very last time
          and says, Who's Rod?
   On the davenport, reading a book about Paraguay.
   So when the smell of the General's rotten tooth 
fills the room.
   So when the big-bottomed village girl reaches down 
between her legs.
   So when I say I love you like I love historical fiction.
   On the treadmill, reading a book on walking
         that suggests we metaphorize the mind as a landscape
   we might keep moving toward, or away from.
   Why we say we've reached a fork in the road,
   the figure already dead on its feet.
   Uncle told me to turn left by the man who sits outside
         the Five and Dime, down on the square.
   Don't worry, he'll still be there.
   From the buds in my ears, I changed the tracks 
underneath the
     I changed the name of this town.
   The GPS plum lost by the time we find Strawberry Road.
   I told them that's where we buried the dog, but I'm not
     She put baked potatoes, still hot and wrapped in foil, 
in our
     winter coat
     Probably just something in my eye.
   Is it time for the old farmer's joke yet?
   When I was in first grade everyone had to speak 
a piece or sing a
song on
   the last day of school. I learned my poem but didn't know what
to do with
   my hands. They just hung down there at the end 
of my arms. The
   suggested at the end of every sentence I think before
and place
   my hands accordingly. The poem came out like this. I said every word.
   Mary had a little lamb before. Its fleece was white as snow 
     Everywhere that Mary went before. The lamb was sure 
to go behind.
     It followed me to school before. Which was against 
the rule 
     It made the children laugh and shout before. And made 
     sore behind.
   On our last day together, I tell my students to be brave,
          and to be kind. Which
   relationship taught you that?
   Parke County (2006)
   What comes before?
   They didn't try to plant in December, and reap 
in February.
                (Ours perhaps
                              the muddiest town this side of Jordan.)
   What follows behind?
   Pulling handfuls of clover free to the threaded roots, 
she held
           reins of yes, reins of no. These were the same reins.
   Remember me to the horses: King, Queen and Daisy.
   To Lepper Long and Froggy Thomas. To Bleeding Hearts, Bachelor
   Buttons, Jack in the Pulpit.
           To hoe without cutting the good.
   Once the Uncles threw live turkeys out the courthouse 
   I could end this anywhere.
   Those look like good blades. 

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