Connie Jordan Green

Elegy for a Farmhouse

     
   

Old shelter, the men who built

     your frame, cut and sawed, planed

          and nailed, who raised your skeleton—

 

a cathedral of sweet lumber,

     their sweat a sacrament—

          are long buried in the cemetery

 

at the foot of the hill. The children

     who dug in the dirt around your

          foundation, who swung from

 

the nearby oak, fell asleep

     beneath the eaves, lulled by rain

          on your roof, are gone into old age,

 

stooped and whitened while you

     stand as you have a hundred years.

          You are the way I know

 

morning, sun rising in the bedroom

     window, crows cawing in the field,

          a neighbor’s tractor chugging

 

its work song. You are the day’s

     labor—broom and dustcloth, skillet

          and saucepot, the rhythm of hunger

 

and food, of need and plenty.

     You are memory fortified by walls,

          history bound in your storied presence.

 

     
         
 

In November

     
   

All afternoon I plant daffodils—

small Téte-a-tétes at the front

of the bed, Yellow Trumpets

at each end, and in the center

mixed bulbs to spread

the blooming season

over months of spring—

a rare balmy day in November,

earth dampened by yesterday’s

rain, soil ready for digging,

clods crumbling in my hands,

plugs of earth lifting, then

falling again over the bulbs,

all afternoon on my knees,

weather waiting in the west,

sun and labor joined one

last time before the darkness.

     
         
 

In the Art Gallery

     
   

a hacksaw and a swing

blade, each suspended

on two nails against a cream-

colored wall, zip-ties of chartreuse

and fuchsia adorning them

like flags calling the laborer

from toil, work into play—

 

            no grease and grime, no

            odor of oil or the well-worn

            glow of metallic surfaces

            where my husband’s hands

            grip and cajole,

            convince the unbendable

            to give a little,

            conform to the sketch

            his mind continually evolves,

            his labor a recreation

            that fills his being,

            his hands the prayer

            he daily becomes,

            his life its own art gallery.

 

     
         
 

Newcomers

     
   

That first year we were desperate—

twenty-four cows and an empty barn loft,

early September beckoning with the first tint

of yellow. The farm was worn out, fences sagged,

equipment meant to be drawn by horses.

 

Cows gazed at us from sere pastures,

their hips like shoulder blades raised

in a resigned shrug. We were twenty-

four, town-bred, toddler in hand,

baby in the womb. Necessity set the pace—

 

Farmall tractor hitched to clackety mower,

hay laid on the ground, rake next,

pulled field’s length, then my husband

down from the tractor, up on the hay rake,

raise the rake teeth, down from the rake,

 

up on the tractor, turn tractor and rake

to start a new row, down from the tractor,

up on the rake, lower the rake teeth,

down from the rake, up on the tractor,

pull another windrow, at the end of the field

 

repeat the dance, all day in summer sun,

piling the scant hay into windrows.

Late day, unhitch hay rake, hitch wagon

to tractor. Early evening, pitchfork loose hay

onto wagon, pull the load to the barn,

 

pitchfork hay into barn loft, the week’s

work scarcely a shadow in one corner

of the cavernous space. Next day we sold

all but a few brood cows, they, like us,

hunkering down for the long hunger of winter.

     
         
 

Want

     
   

We strip green tomatoes

      from withered vines, pluck

            half-grown peppers, call

 

for a basket, the crop

      more than we’d hoped,

            last yield of summer’s abundance,

 

the gathering a ritual we perform

      year after year as cold creeps

            from the north, encases leaf,

 

stem, root in a relentless embrace.

      By morning the garden will stand

            stark, black with frost-burn.

 

We split open peppers, roast them

       in the oven, feast on the tangy

            goodness of their sweet lobes.

 

Week by week, tomatoes lined

       along the kitchen counter slowly pink,

             an urge toward ripeness unstopped by loss of vine,

 

our hunger blooming

      stout as winter wind,

            fierce as a wolf’s howl.

 

     
        return to poetry
 

Connie Jordan Green lives on a farm in Loudon County, Tennessee, with her husband Dick and two cats and two dogs. Her weekly column for the Loudon County News Herald is in its 38th year. She writes stories for young people, poetry and novels. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies; in her chapbooks from Finishing Line Press, Slow Children Playing and Regret Comes to Tea; and in her collection, Household Inventory, winner of the 2013 Brick Road Poetry Award. She was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the East Tennessee Hall of Fame for Writers. She teaches for the Oak Ridge Institute of Continued Learning (ORICL) and leads writing workshops.