Poetry Friday: Iowa Farmstead

Every so often I visit an abandoned farm near my house. Not much is left of it anymore, a decrepitude that is fairly common in Iowa after about 100 years of rural to urban migration, world commodity markets, and industrial agriculture. The “neighborhood” school in my township once had 80 kids attending; now it’s closed. When I visit the farmstead, the traces of the lives that created that place are difficult to discern. So I wonder: What gets remembered? What gets forgotten? What should be?

Poetry_FridayIt’s the end of another school year. I reflect on my own teaching work as if I were a farmer at the end of the harvest. What took root in the fields this year? Where did weeds encroach? And I think about how each year my most sincere goal isn’t so much to be remembered as to be good mulch for the next crop of years my students will plant.

For more Poetry Friday poems, please visit Betsy at Teaching Young Writers.

Iowa Farmstead

Near where the house once stood
unruly lilacs bloom again this May,

song sparrows weave
a nest in thicket branches.

A limestone foundation. A gaping threshold.
A child’s red boot. The ghost of goats.

Where yard chickens scratched, pasture
grass yields to the south wind,

side-steps, springs erect. A horde of nettles
gather on a hummock forked from the barn.

Fitted by worn hands to shelter cows,
mossy plinths bear up an immense sky,

a veiled hope,
the remains of the day.

© Steve Peterson

Here’s a short video of the lilacs in the wind.

8 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Iowa Farmstead

  1. YES. Mulch is the perfect metaphor. I am having many of those same thoughts right now, as we’re ending our school year, too. Thank you for this.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Ruth. Yes, the mulch thing seems like the way that makes sense to me, providing nutrients but then disappearing, too. Whatever good happens in the classroom this year I want to truly become the children’s.

      I hope your last few days with the kids are good ones! Enjoy them! 🙂

    • Thanks, Bridget! Not many people remember much about third grade, I imagine. Certainly I don’t remember much! Perhaps that is as it should be?

      And about the vacation…that’s why it took me so long to reply to your comment. I have been hiking in northern Minnesota! What fun. Have a wonderful summer, too.

  2. What a beautiful post and poem. I love the idea of teaching as farming and wanting to be good mulch. In light of your post I couldn’t help but think of the unruly lilacs as students. I could point out many words and lines in your poem that touched me but I confess I have a special soft spot for the ghosts of goats.

    • Thank you, Liz. Yes, sometimes the unruly lilacs COULD be students! Ha! Or their teacher? 🙂

      Seriously, though, the farmstead really does get me thinking about how, as we live our lives, we leave traces of ourselves behind, sometimes so faint as to be almost unrecognizable, sometimes stronger and clearer.

      Thanks for reading and offering a comment. Best to you!

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