Midwest Winter

Frozen branches shudder-click.
Lonely sentinels
guarding empty Chicago streets.
Humanity hibernates
while nature wins this round.

One state over . . .

Country fields shiver deeply
as polar vortex rules.
Farmhouse chimneys puff outside
while Iowa hunkers down,
quilts and afghans piled on high.

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To our friends and family in the midwest, stay warm and stay safe!
Poetry form here: two tankas joined by “One state over” line.
First image from Pixabay.com; second photo is our old Iowa farmhouse we rented in the early 70s.

The Old Farmstead

It struck with a howling fury. High winds. Snow so thick it obscured the view outside the kitchen window. Tool shed. Abandoned teetering barn. Rusted ancient Deere. All swallowed in a swirling mass of white.

I climbed the well-worn steps, carpet long since removed as a tripping hazard. Climbed into what we’d called their sleigh bed. Oak veneer now peeling. Loneliness was my only companion. Empty rooms down the hall. Memories jostling in my head: childhood tasks in overalls; mom and dad, steaming mugs of coffee in hand, engrossed in quiet whispered conversation about next year’s crop, Jimmy’s ever-growing feet, the upcoming school board meeting. Sleep finally came, in the midst of stuffed, sealed packing boxes.

I woke to a still, darkened house and padded my way down the familiar but different hallway. No giggles or doors slamming. Bare walls waiting for a new owner’s decorative touch. Melancholy seeped into my body. How did time take over my life so completely? Gloss over so many years so quickly, that my visits here shortened in length, but lengthened in days and months and sometimes years between? How could I not notice their slower steps? The peeling paint. The hired hand plowing the fields.

The kitchen window was partially covered by frost on the inside. Like an etching on fine glass. Dawn slowly revealed familiar rolling hills, glistening white in winter’s cold. Snow drifts obscured the woodpile while a small portion of the drive, somehow windswept in last night’s gale, revealed gravel and bits of dried leaves. Nature gifted the land with uneven blessings, just as life did us.

My coffee began to percolate in mom’s old stainless steel pot, plugged into the wall next to the small curved hook where her potholders used to hang. I’d leave this house in a few hours. Say my final goodbyes to what once was . . . birthday celebrations; the bright yellow school bus lumbering down our dirt road; mom gathering sheets from the line outside; dad coming in from the fields.

Looking out that glazed window, my eyes suddenly focused on a spot of crimson red in the blanket of snow. Two cardinals sat beneath the old wooden birdfeeder, long since bereft of seed. They sat patiently, as if belonging to the scene. Bright living color in the midst of all that visual cold. Just as I began to notice the aroma of fresh brewed coffee, their wings began to spread, elongating their shapes. And they rose together, disappearing into streaks of sun now blinding my eyes. Snow glare. The new day was here.

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Written with memories of winters in Iowa. Prose fiction . . . but I imagine many folks face the leaving of their old farmsteads as generations pass, land is bought up and farms become more “corporate.” Photo is of a country home we rented in Iowa; either the old Folkman or Voitman house….down the road from the Bean’s farmstead. They were very special years for us…..over forty years ago.

Apple Me Too Many

Farm house apple trees,
harvest never picks them clean.
Fruit rots ‘neath baring branches,
bees buzz drunkenly in mashed pulp.
Sickly sweet scent hovers,
annual fall perfume.

Gina is our guest host for today’s Poetics at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. He asks us to write about a scent we remember. Apple Me Too Many is drawn from my memories of living in a farm house on 30 acres of land in rural Iowa, from 1974 to 1976. Pub opens at 3 PM Boston time. Come join us!

Marengo Years

How did a city girl end up a high school English teacher in rural Iowa? From graduating in a class of eight-hundred-fifty, quick-stepping to Pomp and Circumstances so the procession wouldn’t last an hour; to senior class sponsor of thirty-two, holding students back until the prior one was all the way down the aisle and seated – so the band could play the entire song.

Town square on Main Street. No traffic lights. Elementary school kids on decorated trikes and bicycles in the high school homecoming parade. Future Farmers of America, 4-H, and drama club. Six-on-six girls’ basketball and a superintendent who sometimes wore bibber overalls. Houses with unlocked doors and party-line telephones.  Church cookbooks and pot-lucks. Friendly people always willing to share, listen, and lend a helping hand. My second time in high-school. More special than the first.

ten foot drifts that year
folks hunkered down waiting for plows –
farm cats warm in barns

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Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. It’s Tuesday Poetics and Amaya is hosting, asking us to remember our school days. Photo: Our rented farm house in rural Marengo, Iowa.

Impatient in Iowa

Elusive spring
buried beneath snow.
Monotone whitened rural scene
minus crocus, lilacs,
and red breasted robins.
Brightened only by weathered barn
and newly painted crimson birdhouse,
daredevil cheerful bracelet
on snow laden tree limb.
Old man winter,
still balking at retirement.

Photo by Sari Hacker, my former Iowa Valley High School student. Fond memories of our days in Marengo, Iowa.

Iowa Scene

Thirty acres of Iowa farmland surrounded our country house ~ the first home we ever owned. We tended a huge garden, had six apple trees, and rented out the rest of the land to a nearby farmer.

It was a magical place in all seasons. Spring time brought apple blossoms and the sound of tractors moving up and down the fields. Our summer garden overflowed with zucchini while wind-blown sheets flapped on the clothesline. Fall harvest coincided with our consolidated high school’s homecoming parade around town square. Winter storms left corn stalk stubs peeking out from a blanket of white snow. And if we were lucky, we might spy a migrating snowy owl, perched atop the fence post next to our old wooden barn.

blizzard blows in night
red barn awakens to white landscape
snowy owl hoots in delight

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Victoria is hosting Haibun Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. A Haibun is a Japanese form of poetry that includes one or two paragraphs of tight nonfiction prose followed by a haiku that must include a seasonal reference. Today, Victoria tells us how the Japanese associate the Kigo, Fukuroo with the season of winter (Kigo is owl; Fukuroo means the snowy owl). We are to write a haibun about owls. Photo in public domain from pixabay.com

 

Transient Beauty

It was the first summer after we bought our Iowa farm house. City transplants, we planted a huge garden. Tomatos, sweet corn, carrots, beets, cucumbers, radishes, green and yellow beans, peas, zucchini, squash and pumpkin, all kinds of peppers, and oak leaf and ruby red lettuce.  I planned to can and freeze vegetables. Enjoy our harvest through the winter.

On this particular hot and humid day, I was seven months pregnant and exhausted, but very proud of my first attempt at canning stewed tomatoes. I’d picked and washed the tomatoes. Dipped them in boiling water to loosen the skins. Chopped them with celery and peppers. Cooked the mixture and poured them into sterilized glass jars. And finally processed them in the pressure canner. Deliciously, gloriously red, the mixture was now displayed in mason jars, standing tall on my cupboard.

And then I heard our German Shepherd barking — a lot. I took two steps into the back yard and stopped dead in my tracks. The smell was unbelievable. Skunk. And all those beautiful stewed tomatoes, gone in a flash. Rubbed into the coat of Toby. At least he had the grace to lick his chops.

nature thunders rain
magnolia blooms fall to ground
magnificence gone

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It’s Haibun Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. Today Grace asks us to write a haibun related to summer. This summer memory is from many many years ago. Haibun: prose (cannot be fiction) followed by a haiku (should be related to nature).  Pub opens at 3 PM Boston time. Come on over and join the fun! Photo in public domain – from Pixabay.

 

Iowa Haibun

Rural Iowa and fifteen acres of land. Three rusty metal cross-bars hold taut clothesline flapping white sheets and cotton diaper cloths. I stand on tip-toe, reaching high to pick low-hanging fruit. Branches sag with their weight. Nearby, the garden waits. Beet greens wilt, red-veined, atop vegetables grown too plump beneath the soil. Feathery dill goes to seed as crazed zucchini plants maze through cukes and pumpkin patch.

In the distance, I see dust rise before I hear the car. George is returning from city life to our quiet country home. A space to live simply on the land.

rolling hills of green
beribboned by dusty roads
corn silk dries in sun

It’s Haibun Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. Toni is tending bar and speaks to us about the Japanese tradition of foresting — simply walking through the woods, unplugged, relaxed, listening and smelling what is true. Our Haibun must be one or two tight paragraphs of prose (not fiction) followed by a haiku. She asks that we write about a time we simply enjoyed the out-of-doors or a natural place. She wants us to relax with our readers — offering a post of calm.

One Iowa Night

We rented an Iowa farmhouse in 1973, in the midst of loess hills and cornfields. The acreage included a silo, machine sheds, pigs’ digs, and a large barn with 1876 chiseled into the fading red wooden door. On this particular January night, in the midst of a howling blizzard, we heard thumping at our door. Cat, our inherited outdoor farmcat, sat on the stoop. Bulging pregnant belly of yesterday gone, her teats hung low. We offered a bowl of warm milk as George donned winter gear. He set out to follow Cat and insure her new kittens were safe, protected from the storm. She led him in and out of buildings, round that farm for thirty plus minutes. He finally gave up the hunt and came inside, looking like a freeze-frame from Dr. Zhivago. Mucous frozen mustache. Beard turned prematurely white with snow. We feared the worse. And then . . . some weeks later, on a clear, crisp and sunny day, Cat paraded by our window with a smirk on her face. Six little ones scurried behind.

winds howl, snow pelts earth
nature’s creatures burrow deep
wait for calming sun

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It’s haibun Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. Toni asks us to write about a night we remember. The haibun form includes a paragraph or two in prose (must be nonfiction) followed by a haiku. Photo is in fact, the old farmhouse mentioned in the haibun. Pub opens at 3 PM Boston time. Stop by and imbibe some poetry or share your memories of one special night!