Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In celebration of National Poetry Month, a selected poem April 5, 2023

I took poetic license and photoshopped this image of the button I wore identifying me as a poet at a poetry reading. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo April 2015)

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.

My poem, “Final Harvest,” and two pieces of creative nonfiction were selected for publication in this anthology in 2020. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2020)

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.

This scene at Parkview Senior Living in Belview, Minnesota, inspired a poem. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2019)

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?

Final Harvest

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


12 Responses to “In celebration of National Poetry Month, a selected poem”

  1. beth Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your poem. You really have a way with words

  2. I absolutely love that corn stalk in the pink bucket and the poetry it inspired in your mind. Perfect.

  3. A beautifully sad, heart-felt poem, Audrey. ❤ Happy Poetry Month. ❤

  4. Susan Ready Says:

    Indeed your success as a poet is impressive as you are a master at making every word count with your keen sense of observation.

  5. Jaaberg Says:

    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.

      • Jaaberg Says:

        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.

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