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?
It’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.
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.