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.

In the midst . . .

of headline news
frenetic must-dos, should-dos,
buy-this-sales and shopping bustle.
Before the dawn of daily busyness,
Christmas shimmers and gleams.

Candles glimmer,
tiny white lights shine.
Treasured ornaments hold memories –
children grown, loved ones passed,
moments shared.

There is a serenity to the season,
if only we pause to savor.

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A blessed Christmas season to all.  The pink reindeer ornament is actually one of the pieces that hung on my children’s mobile, over their crib when they were infants. They are now in their 40s and both have a wooden animal from the mobile on their own Christmas tree. The pink bell, just barely showing at the top of the final photo, was on my mother’s girlhood tree. 

Her Leaving Time

She’d been left behind by her son and husband many years before. Left to grow old without them. Legally blind. Too much effort to live. Too many pills to remember each morning. Each night.

Now, this cold autumn afternoon, lying in a hospital bed, she simply said Lillian, I’m tired. And I knew. I bent down, leaned close to her ear and whispered. I told her it was all right. Find the light, mom. They’re waiting for you. And she suddenly sat up and smiled. Eyes bright. A broad big smile. And then she flopped back and lay still. The kind male nurse who’d been at her side looked across the bedside at me. He simply nodded. And I nodded back.

golden amber leaves
blow off trees, hit closed windows
nature’s death displayed

Haibun written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. Today Merril is our guest pub tender and asks us to write about a transition. A haibun is two or three short succinct paragraphs of prose (must be true) followed by a haiku that, in the traditional sense, contains a kigo (reference to a season).

Still Missing You

Charles Andrew Jr.
birthed before the War,
nine years my elder.

Took leave far too early
buried deep atop grassy hill,
mountain range across the way.

I see your image
every day,
looking out at me.

Framed and under glass,
always smiling.
Forever fifty-one.

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It was Quadrille Monday at dVerse. The prompt word  was “early” and somehow, I’m late to post for it!  Photo is my brother…..hard to believe he’s been gone almost 30 years.
Quadrille: a poem of exactly 44 words, sans title.

 

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!

Treasured Kitsch

Mother’s treasured knick knack,
miniature rotary telephone.
Two metal pieces, one with delicate dial,
still turns by clumsy finger tip.
Second piece balances on first,
receiver, small enough I’m sure,
to span from fairy’s mouth to ear,
to listen and to talk.

Mother’s treasured knick knack,
best friend’s gift in ’37.
Yellowed fragile note,
pristine cursive of the day.
My dear sweet Helen,
Always remember,
girl talk makes our days go faster.
Love from Franny, forever.

Mother’s treasured knick knack
sits on dusty shelf,
beside great-grandmum’s cameo brooch,
glass hat pin
and wound-to-tight music box.
Worthless items today,
to you.
Priceless to me.

 

It’s Tuesday Poetics at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. Sarah is hosting and asks us to be mindful about a particular object….any object. Pick it up, examine it, write anything that comes to mind from it…and then from those thoughts, write a poem.

Bereavement

Evil incarnate soared that day
then plunged metal-searing hot,
into the hearts of thousands.
We reeled through dust laden,
tear and shock stained weeks –
searching, then praying
for departed souls.

Six-thousand-two-hundred-
and-four days have passed.
For many, all colored
by loss tinctured dawns.

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It’s Tuesday Poetics at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets….and coincidentally, the 17th anniversary of 9-11. Amaya is hosting and asks us to go “on a loop.”  Return to a poem we wrote/posted on a previous September 11th and take a word or phrase from that poem to create a new one. We were in our beloved Provincetown, at the very tip of Cape Cod, on September 11th, 2016 — as we are today. I posted a poem then, Cape Cod Lure, that included the phrase “tinctured dawns” which is used again in this 9-11 commemorative poem. 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.