Organic Poetry

Poetry Column by Jeffrey Shotts, HPC Member

A small anthology of farm poems— about first fruits, an immigrant worker, and a contemporary field song.

The Broken Ground

by Wendell Berry

The opening out and out,
body yielding body:
the breaking
through which the new
comes, perching
above its shadow
on the piling up
darkened broken old
husks of itself:
bud opening to flower
opening to fruit opening
to the sweet marrow
of the seed —
    taken
from what was, from
what could have been.
What is left
is what is.

The Right Hand of a Mexican Farmworker in Somerset County, Maryland

by Martín Espada

A rosary tattoo
between thumb
and forefinger
means that
every handful
of crops and dirt
is a prayer,
means that Christ
had hard hands
too

Once We Were Farmers

by Elsa Rediva E’der

Once we were farmers
and we measured time
in distant moments
of new life
and our hopes dwelled
welled up through sweat and skin
unspoken and sacred
and on the rocks we let lie in the fields
we stenciled language
and fed the rainfall upon our stories
and moments circled above the earth

till now

unspoken is our passion
our passion is the moon
lying down
in these moments
in the fields O pen ing
and in the rhythms of stillness

we were life anew
we were farmers and midwives
and blood spilled towards the future
in rituals of ancient powers

we leaned toward the cries
of children who gave sound
to rocks we let lie in the fields

We sing
we sing with eloquent hunger.

“The Broken Ground” by Wendell Berry from Collected Poems, published by North Point Press, 1985. “The Right Hand of a Mexican Farmworker in Somerset County, Maryland” by Martín Espada from Trumpets from the Islands of Their Eviction, published by Bilingual Press, 1987. “Once We Were Farmers” by Elsa Rediva E’der from Returning a Borrowed Tongue, published by Coffee House Press, 1995.