Saturday, November 18, 2017

Poetry Saturday: Family Farm Heritage

Perhaps I should post a more spiritual poem.  This blog is my theology blog after all.  I should write a poem about gratitude and God and great feasts.

But Thanksgiving suggests a different kind of spiritual heritage to me.  For many years, we went back to my grandfather's homeplace, where his relatives were still farming on a small scale.  We ate a turkey that had been scratching in the yard very recently.  We ate vegetables grown in the fields outside the door.  We talked about our ancestors.

I learned about my great grandmother (or was she an aunt?) who was picking beans when she had a heart attack.  She made the men wait to take her to the hospital until she could change into clean underwear.

Of course, I learned more than just funny stories.  I learned about how people survived hard times and how they celebrated bounty.  I learned about a quiet spirituality (of a Lutheran variety) that formed the backbone of my family.  I learned about tables that were full of enough food to share with the family members who didn't have as much to contribute--for many starving student years, my husband and I would go to the feast with a meager loaf of pumpkin bread, and we'd leave with enough food for a week--and a Christmas tree cut from the fields!

So, here's a poem that celebrates that heritage.  It was first published a year ago in Big Muddy.

Thanks Giving

Finally, I am with my own kinsfolk.
I do not feel a freak of nature anymore.
Here beneath this hook
where my great grandfather butchered hogs and deer,
I stare into faces familiar to me.
My future face.

I have the strong, solid body
which doesn’t belong to this age
of computers and office politics.
I was meant to be up at half a crack of dawn,
fixing a huge breakfast
before I plowed a field and put an addition on the house.
All in a day’s work.

The strength of my people lies
buried in my bones and brain,
a genetic code impossible
to diet or exercise away.
My hips would balance a baby
while I shaped bread dough and slaughtered chickens,
if only I would comply.

But I’ll submit to my genetic destiny on some level.
I will always awaken before sunrise,
always keep an eye to the sky,
track the weather like a second religion.
I’ll cook enough food for a small third world country
and share my good fortune with others.
I’ll tell the family stories
about strong women
with indomitable wills.

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