Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In concert from Rochester: “The Farmer’s Song” & six other poems April 1, 2017

 

IT IS MY PLEASURE to present to you a video that includes “The Farmer’s Song,” my poem performed last weekend at two concerts in Rochester.

Click here to listen to a Choral Song Cycle by David Kassler on Texts of Minnesota Poets. I read my poem at about 39 minutes followed by a Chamber Choir singing “The Farmer’s Song” with cellist and pianist accompaniment. This concert was held at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

To Rochester composer David Kassler and to all of the musicians, thank you for this gift of an artsong. Fueled by your musical passions and talents, you took my poem and crafted a moving tribute to the Minnesota farmer I remember. To share my rural roots in this way has been a truly joyful experience. And to be in the company of six other gifted poets was also an honor.

Thank you.

The Farmer’s Song

Out of rote he follows the path from house to barn,
from barn to shed, steel-toed boots beating a rhythm
upon the earth, into this land which claims his soul.

He reaches for the paint-chipped handle,
his grease-stained fingers connecting with worn metal
like hammer to nail in the movements of his day.

Farming defines the lyrics of his life written upon hands
that have measured yields, directed tractors, pitched manure,
stroked calves, performed seasons of backbreaking labor.

Inside the shed, as he latches wrench to bolt,
he ponders the final verses of his years, the songs he’ll sing
when age frays his memory, grips his hands in a hallelujah chorus.

 

FYI:  If you are a choral conductor interested in having this music performed by your ensemble. please contact David Kassler. He will work with you. Like Kassler, I would love to see these artsongs reach an even broader audience.

Click here to read my initial blog post about the concert.

A special thank you also to Park Rapids-based The Jackpine Writer’s Bloc for originally publishing “The Farmer’s Song” in the anthology In Retrospect, The Talking Stick, Volume 22.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

In loving memory of my farmer dad April 3, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:56 AM
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The barn where I labored alongside my father while growing up on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. File photo.

The barn where I labored alongside my father while growing up on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. File photo.

CALL ME THE BARD of barns, if you will, for barns have inspired me to pen poetic words and to compose poetic photos.

There is something about a barn rising strong and majestic or sagging with the burden of age that moves me. I am reminded of my childhood years toiling in the barn—scraping manure, wheeling ground corn in the wheelbarrow, forking silage.

Cats clumped in corners. Buckle overshoes slapping against cement. WCCO booming “Point of Law.”

Fly specks. Pink baby mice. Long sandpaper cow tongues.

The milkhouse, attached to family barn. File photo.

The abandoned milkhouse, attached to family barn. File photo.

Stuck drinking cups overflowing. Twine on bales. Pails of frothy milk.

Cracked, chapped bleeding hands slimed with Cornhuskers lotion.

Footsteps of my father. Time with Dad. Gone 10 years ago today.

A snippet of the land my father farmed, my middle brother after him. The land and farm site are now rented out.

A snippet of the land my father farmed, my middle brother after him. The land and farm site are now rented out.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling