Rita Quillen: Three Poems


Spring Meditation of The Mad Farmer’s Wife
For Wendell Berry

Ask and it shall be given—Seek and ye shall find.
So farming is a laying up
Of earthly treasures and fat surprises.
Morels amid brown leaf bed
Brave onions shoving their way into the light
New pears hanging like joyous tears waiting to fall
Spring gobbler Kabuki silhouettes in the skyline-
These quests are low stress.
But treks to find calves in late winter
A different matter altogether.
She walks beside, then behind
Choosing the path with care
Crunching grey and brown stubble
Under heavy boots, heavy breathing
Bloodrush deafening
So he stops, turns his face
To sun, moon, star
Listening for life
Generations of ancestors
Imprinted this imperative: there is no other purpose
Here, no meaning, except search and find.
The day is ripening, the rising sun
Saffrons the land
And then he stops and turns to her
His face breaks into a big grin
And he reaches for her, pulls her close.
The line of grey woods ahead yield
Yet another new spring calf
Dancing on new legs, sniffing the air.
The Mad Farmer lifts his hand
A blessing and a greeting.


Listening to my Daughter on the Radio
Her heart when I first heard it—
a snare drum brush sound
Through the stethoscope.
A few months later
a piercing cry
Sharp as a paper cut
That I recognized
Recognized from way down the hall-
Stunned by nature’s imprinting-
My sex altering my senses—
I knew her cry.

Far away from me now
In every way
The strong voice on the radio
Plays what she wants
Says so, says so
Cracks wise to her river buddies
Quotes herself, nicknames herself
Floating along on a current
Of ions charged
Positive and negative and immutable
A life in 4/4 time.


Taking Inventory: His Hammer

You always appreciated good tools.
Your Craftsmen hammer fits balanced
Perfect in the hand
I grip the worn faded pink center
Of the blood red handle
Turn the worn silver face to mine
See the grey reflection
Blur to abstraction
Then drive the white nail home
With one blow.