Friday, August 08, 2014

Let the babies be safe here

Out on a drive through the beautiful Michigan countryside, we stopped to look at this beauty, who came running over to give us a closer view. I have always loved horses, and had one only when I was 15, 16 and 17. Tonight I have been reading another book of farm poems (these from America) and have picked one by Maxine Kumin to share. Maxine Kumin had a long and rich poetic life, with many accomplishments, awards and honors.  She died earlier this year. With her husband, she bred and raised Arabian and quarter horses, and has written many wonderful poems and essays about life on a working farm.

In the Upper Pasture

In the evergreen grove that abuts the pasture we are
limbing low branches, carting away deadwood,
cutting close to the trunk so the sap does not bleed,
to make a shelter, a run-in for foals and their mares.
We will not shorten the lives of these hemlocks and pines
in the afternoon of our lives, yet I am sad
to think that the dell will outlast us and our bloodlines.

Is this a pastoral? Be not deceived
by the bellows of leathery teats giving suck,
by the fringe of delicate beard that pricks
its braille notes on the muzzle of the newborn.
When instinct whinnies between dam and foal
at night in the rain, do not be lulled.
Each of us whimpers his way through the forest alone.

With scrap lumber we patiently fence off
a triad of trees that have grown so close to each other
a young horse darting through might be taken prisoner.
Let the babies be safe here, let them lie down on pine duff
away from the merciless blackflies, out of the weather.
Under the latticework of old trees let me stand
pitch-streaked and pleasured by this small thing we have done.

Maxine Kumin, 
from Handspan of Red Earth; an anthology of American Farm Poems, edited by Catherine Lewallen Marconi, University of Iowa Press, 1991, page 59.

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