Dixie Land Delight
Isn’t the truck parked in the holler.
Is the black walnuts, rolling down
in autumn, pungent green husks
blackening as the walnuts ripen
inside. Our Mennonite neighbors
paid their children ten cents for a
#10 can, filled with shelled fruit.
We took our hammers to them,
broke them open and found
the meat. We had so little time
for trouble, when I was young,
when the walnuts rolled in, or
the apples, or tomatoes. Boiling
or paring or peeling. Slaughtering
the chickens and hogs, the grinder
wheel turning, the scrapple boiling
in the pot. I’ve looked in the glassy
eyes of dead things, washed feathers
and blood from my hands. I’ve laid
down on my quilt, on an August
day, when I could take no more.
Not the pigs. Not the seventeen roosters
from the spring incubators. Not the hens
taken by farmyard parasites, fed on
electrolytes. Not the bantam, taken by
hawk. Little bird, feathers on its feet.
Not the eight African Grey geese, spread
like cotton pieces on the lawn after
the Jack Russells, who did escape.
What do we farm but loss, and isn’t
this also an argument for denying
everything loved? Your brothers
and sisters. Your parents. Better not
keep what you know will not escape
sorrow but will escape you, leave you
looking at a yard of white flowers:
fringed phacelia, appearing as a mist
in spring. A bell for the earth.
First appeared in The American Poetry Journal
Hannah VanderHart lives in Durham, NC. She has her MFA from George Mason University, and is currently at Duke University writing her dissertation on gender and collaboration poetics in the seventeenth century. She has poems and reviews recently published and forthcoming at The McNeese Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Unbroken Journal, Thrush, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and The Greensboro Review.
On why poetry matters: “Poetry returns us to a child’s way of singing stories–and to listening. “