APRIL MARKS National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate poetic verse and poets. As a long-time writer, I unequivocally state that penning poetry is challenging. Why? Every. Single. Word. Counts.
That makes sense given the structure of poems.
I’ve written poetry off and on since high school. All those decades ago, I wrote angst-filled poems reflective of teenage moods, emotions and life. Recently a high school friend returned a poem I wrote for her nearly 50 years ago, a poem handwritten on lined notebook paper. The folded page, yellowed with age, holds words focusing on my future and the ultimate question at life’s end: What good have I done?
The poem dedicated to Janette is not particularly well-written. Yet, it has value in reflecting my thoughts, in opening myself up, in showing vulnerability to a trusted friend. Will I share it with you? No.
But I will share my poem, “Final Harvest,” which published in Insights, Talking Stick 29. It was chosen by the editorial team of Menahga-based Jackpine Writers’ Bloc for the 2020 edition of TS, a selected collection of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction by Minnesotans or those with a Minnesota connection.
The poetry I write, like nearly all of my writing, carries a strong sense of place, often rooted in my agrarian roots. And, like nearly all of my creative writing, my poetry is rooted in truth. A cornstalk growing in a pink bucket in the community room at Parkview Senior Living, where my mom lived before her 2022 death, inspired “Final Harvest.” It is not at all angst-filled. But, in a round about way, it asks the same question: What good have I done?
The cornstalk rises tall, straight
from the pink five-gallon bucket
set next to an uncomfortable tan chair
on carpet the color of dirt.
If the retired farmer in the wheelchair
looks long enough, he imagines rows of corn
rooted in a field of rich black soil,
leaves unfurling under a wide blue sky.
Staff stops to check the corn plant
seeded on May 13, not too late,
says the old farmer as he pours water
into the bucket, soaking the soil.
I focus my camera lens on the cornstalk,
pleased and amused by its placement here
like a still life shadowing beige walls
in the community room of my mom’s care center.
© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Thank you so much for sharing your poem. You really have a way with words
Thank you, Beth. I love creating with words.
I absolutely love that corn stalk in the pink bucket and the poetry it inspired in your mind. Perfect.
When I saw that corn growing in that bucket, I knew I needed to photograph, and then write, about it.
A beautifully sad, heart-felt poem, Audrey. ❤ Happy Poetry Month. ❤
Thank you and Happy National Poetry Month to you also, dear poet friend.
Indeed your success as a poet is impressive as you are a master at making every word count with your keen sense of observation.
Thank you, Sue. I try.
Final Harvest is a lovely piece of work Audrey. It’s amazing how your carefully chosen words and elements of the scene transported me vividly there. I felt like i I was seeing it with you. It was a bittersweet feeling, but only for a moment, and then I was just as quickly transported to a beautiful, happy Saturday morning long ago when I was called in for an extra day of work detasseling corn for Hubert Anderson. So I got two trips for the price of one out of your poem. Thank you for sharing it.
Well, you are welcome! It’s nice to meet another corn detassler. My memories of detasseling corn are not so wonderful–dew running down my arms, corn leaves slicing my skin, no bathrooms, the heat of a humid summer day…and being paid $1.25/hour.
I was lucky. The farmers I worked for, whether detasseling or walking beans, were great story tellers and made the work fun, plus we kids were fed and watered well. And it was fun , (and educational 🙂 ) working with the older teens.
I’m glad you hold fond memories of detasseling corn. I was happy to have that summer job. But it was hard, hot work detasseling corn for Dekalb. There was no storytelling, water or food for our crew. We brought our lunches and whatever we drank.