n o w

i

no

longer

yearn,

for the

next

big thing
.
.
.
.
it’s

every

t i m e

we spend,

it’s

u s

here

n o w
.
.
.
y o u

show me

l o v e,

deeper

than merely

skin on skin
.
.
.
.
our

hearts

they beat

t o g e t h e r,

we bleed

as one
.
.
.
.
your

eyes say

a l w a y s,

come

h o m e

to me
.
.
.
.
your

lips mouth

w o r d s,

that

feed my

s o u l
.
.
.
.
your

arms

they

hold me,

i know

i n f i n i t y
.
.
.
.
it’s

your l o v e…

and it’s

a l l

i will

e v e r

need,

to

b e
.
.
.
.
.
this poem was written to the tempo of this song.
.

what i recall

dear friends…
i wrote this in the car, coming home from our
trip to our farm 2 weeks ago. i’ve been holding it
back because, well, there is a lot to digest here,
a lot of words and a lot of details you don’t know
because i haven’t written about them, except in
metaphors. if you choose to read this, and i will
understand if you don’t, just know that there is
healing and reconciliation, of so much of the
tragedy that is my childhood and family history.

there are no metaphors in this writing, everything
written here is true. there is also a larger message
about how we live now, versus how our parents did just
a few decades ago, a message that’s close to my heart.
.
.

the farm 016
.
.
and driving down the simple gravel road, our recent visit done,
slowly…past the tall rows of corn standing their sentry post
this once random parcel of land, hidden amidst 1000’s of acres
that felt like Home to me the minute the white clapboard house
suddenly appeared in the surprise clearing, over ten years ago

…and I recall what i heard then,
.
the easy after dinner conversations
and commitment, a family reciting
its oral history to their children.

the southern rooted melancholy
of the music, this east coast boy
never could appreciate until now.
.
and as we took one last last look
down the gravel road road towards
the house, before driving to Chicago

both our hearts so tethered to this farm
Scout with her memories and me with mine
so we sang in harmony to our favorite road trip song
Patty Loveless singin’ ’You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive’

‘But the times, they got hard and tobacco wasn’t selling
And old grandad knew what he’d do to survive
He went and dug for Harlan coal
And sent the money back to grandma
But he never left Harlan alive’

that Scout could get this shy one to sing…
that this scared kid, did manage to escape Brooklyn alive
that no other house I owned, spoke Home like this farm
that it’s just all too much to absorb sometimes

i recall what I heard listening to Carl
a retiree now, still living in the next farm over
in the brightest moonlight he could ever remember
stroll his field, just to hear the snap of the corn grow

i recall Aunt Shirley, who’s not even my blood
on the phone that afternoon, ask which I wanted
should she make apple or peach cobbler for dessert
and then apologizing, ‘‘cause the edges they were burnt.’

that this family has so folded me into their clan
that an orphan with no family of his own…now does
that it’s all been done without a single word about it
that it’s all just too much to absorb sometimes

i recall what i heard listening to Bob, Scout’s gentle father
sharing his childhood memories, working his own daddy’s fields
at 12, hitching horses to a wagon to glean the left over corn
and milking the cows everyday at 4, so his family could survive

i recall what I heard Sue, married 50 years to her beloved Bob
say on the phone last year driving home from the lawyers…
smiling, ‘Well the papers are all signed, it’s finally complete.
We called you first, ’cause we know how much you love the farm’

that none of the many siblings showed any interest
that Scout, her brother and I, were gifted this farm we treasure
that this poor Brooklyn boy, might breathe his last breath here
that it’s all…just really too much to absorb some days
.
.
.
and i recall what I heard last night, when I walked the clearing
a bird I didn’t recognize was singing his melodic night calling
i just had to stop this walking, to listen to his every pretty note
.
and I thanked the universe
.
.
from my very core..
.
.
that I was there
.
108
.
.

The Farm: Silver Quarters

The Farm will be an ongoing and occasional series of stories, an attempt to journal the oral history of my wife’s rich family history. Since i’ve met and married into this family, stories have been told at every dinner, family gathering and vacation campfire and this is my small attempt and contribution to preserve these stories for next and future generations.

My wife, her brother and myself have been gifted this wonderful farm though the incredible generosity and committment of her parents. Of all the many siblings, only us three had very much interest in maintaining the farm or keeping it in the family, a family farming heritage that dates back almost a hundred years.

the farm 027

There is a quiet and humble history on this property, in the trees that were climbed by the children who grew up on this farm, in the still visible foundation outline of the once huge barn, in every dented and gouged pine door casing, the ancestry of my wife’s family is explained in these details and always further illuminated in our post dinner conversations. Country folk love telling stories and with very little fanfare and a matter of fact manner that belies the profound humanity, the empathy like a ribbon that runs through this family, tales were told tonight too.

My wife and her younger brother spent their summers on this farm, it was a working farm then with a huge pasture for the steer that Pap butchered, chickens and horses, the crops were soybeans, corn, hay and peony plants. The multistory post and beam constructed barn was enormous by all accounts, the heart of any farm and this barn served as the center of activity and endless hours of discovery for the kids too. The horses and ponies were a favorite, my wife spent her time learning to care, feed, walk and eventually ride these horses so much so that Gram ordered Pap to build her a racetrack behind the barn.

This was no small affair, the size of this track would take out a significant portion of the pasture and there were ‘conversations’ between Gram and Pap about the wisdom of this idea but as so many of the stories are indicative of the strength and conviction of the women in this family, Gram prevailed.

She always did.

Gram and Pap grew up during the Great Depression and talked often about being ‘dirt poor’, their families barely survived, scratching out a living however they could in this farming town in southern Indiana just outside Evansville and it’s doubtful that they would have described this same piece of land as a slice of the universe then, as we do now. She learned to cook at a very early age, her scribbled recipes, a shaky penciled script written on stained and wrinkled, blue lined loose leaf pages are coveted by the women in this family, every family had but a few until my wife compiled them into a book and each family then received their own copy one Christmas.

Gram set aside her Avon side business in 1970, took her cooking talents and became the head lunchroom cook at the local elementary school, always adding an extra helping of whatever was on the menu that day to the plates of the very poor among the students. There were four kids in particular, 2 brothers and 2 sisters whose family was considered ‘dirt poor’ even then, lunch was their only nutritious meal of the day. Gram invited these children to the farm every day on the pretense of playing in the barn with my wife and her brother and play they did. The boys built an enclosed fort from the hay bales behind the barn and when they all felt very adventurous and were sure no adults were looking, climbed to the second story rafters of the barn and jumped, one by one into the huge 12’ high pile of shelled feed corn below.

Actually, this story was just revealed to my wife’s parents tonight, to their rolled eyes and ‘Oh, no you didn’ts!’, and we all had a great big laugh at the secrets kids can keep.

But the real reason Gram brought those 4 hungry kids to their farm after school was to feed them, they all shared dinner together and whenever she could, unbeknownst to Pap or anyone else, she would slip them each a silver quarter and send them back home.

Decades later when Gram died, the 4 grown adults who all still lived in the area, all successful now, came to Gram’s funeral and told the whole family this story, the story the they were all learning about as they listened, the tale of a woman quietly sharing what she had with those less fortunate. The 2 sisters and 2 brothers then asked if they could place a small suede pouch they had brought with them into Grams’ casket to honor her memory.

The small, hand stitched suede pouch cinched tight with thin leather roping the family learned, was filled with silver quarters.