I submitted this poem to the July 2019 Ekphrastic Challenge, but it wasn’t chosen. I don’t have permission to use the image here, but you can check out Ekphrastic Challenge on Rattle.com for the exact scene. For this post, I chose some free images on pixabay to illustrate the poem.
The image in the July 2019 Rattle challenge shows a small farm with a house and trailer on the right, positioned behind a pen. In the muddy field, there are two cows. In the background to the left, you see an old silo and in the center in the background, a barn. Above the silo is a jet making a descent. The image is named: Restricted/U.S. Air Force by B.A. Van Sise from the artist’s “Elsewhere” series.
For me, the image on Rattle elicited memories of my time on a farm in Missouri. Our large family rented an old farm house for a couple of years in the early 60s.
My impression was of the passing of an era for the house, the farm, me, and even the nation.
THE DEATH OF A FARM
The house was a woman of years
refusing to sell to developers.
She still had her wringer washer
and coal-burning stoves waiting to be fed.
How she quaked with the roar of the coal filling her bins.
She ate that coal like candy.
And the ubiquitous black dust fought me each winter
as I scrubbed and scrubbed the cracked vinyl flooring
and the sills and woodwork that trimmed her bodice.
Each summer, the dust blown in from the fields
would blanket the old woman.
Her ivory dress, tattered and stained,
spoke of bygone trials and triumphs on her American soil,
where she stood her ground.
I was her caretaker in our sojourn there
as she indulged this family of nine,
who needed a roof with substantial lodging.
She complied with the courtesy of a elderly southern belle
eager for companionship as she had been lonely too long.
Her barn became a nursery for newborn kittens
and a playground for boisterous boys.
They climbed the rickety ladders to view her farm
from the highest loft overlooking the pasture
and her crop of tobacco and such.
The crops were farmed by hired teens
who tried to scare this young girl
with gross beetle larvae from across the fence.
Wanna smoke? They would ask me.
I was too young for them – and busy.
I worked for the sake of the house.
I would wring out the sheets and hang them in the sun.
The laundry on the lines would whip in the wind
to the songs on American Bandstand and the current top ten.
When free from the chores,
I took to the pasture to sing and dance to my own tunes
in the fescue that nourished the livestock.
My heart wandered in the farmland hills and the trickling creek
as I imagined my possibilities.
But one autumn day, the pasture became my refuge of tears
when I heard that President Kennedy had been shot and killed.
I ran from the kitchen to the pasture and
slumped down. My cries resounded as a death toll
in the shadow of an abandoned silo.
My old friend stared with wide, hollow eyes,
As her light dimmed to still night.
The cows scattered to the sound of a jet
descending to torn earth.
©Barbara Harris Leonhard, extraordinarysunshineweaver.blog