Liz’s Weekly Poetry Series: Pastoral/Anti-Pastoral
At the beginning of this month, on July 4th actually, a poet friend I hadn’t seen in years blew through town on a treasure hunt.
We talked for as long as my kids allowed us, filling in the years. My friend, in discussing his own recent work with translations, described a dampening effect on his tendency toward the anti-pastoral, a dominant theme of his early verse.
Since that delightful encounter I’ve been tinkering with a poem, but it’s a rather cliche rendering of the anti-pastoral I’d like to flee, but can’t. To soften that, I recently picked up a book of poems by Gary Soto, titled a simple plan (Chronicle Books, 2007).
This week’s poetry post, because of neglect, is a twofer: Pastoral/Anti-Pastoral. Enjoy.
The tumbleweed gathers up rumors
And rolls out of town. Yanked-up roots are piled beyond the barn,
And even now a fly with octagonal eyes
Is sipping coolant pooled under the tractor.
“Mr. Goto,” my father-in-law tells me in the yard,
“The doctor said he needed more exercise.
He got a bike.”
Stars squeeze their icy light,
A June bug hisses on the screen door,
And a family of possums wades in the cistern.
Far east, clouds are throwing lightning on some poor devil.
“Yeah, Mr. Goto, had 40 acres of walnuts,”
My father-in-law says. Red coal of his cigarette
In the dark, a pause for the chickens to stop their mad fluttering.
“He got run over last week. I don’t know about his bike.”
Mid-May. The irrigated cotton rows lit with moonlight.
Three months, and the heat will bring us inside.
For now, we take to the road on bikes,
The Buddhist wheels spinning front and back.
cannot be reversed
by our backyard garden
in a $500 dollar coop (bought online)
their glorious poop
and bug hunting efficiency
cannot erase what awaits us in the grocery store
where Ginsberg once chased Whitman’s ass
along the precipice
in arrogant disregard of basic natural laws
the anti-pastoral, says Arlo, means
there’s no returning to the milk farm
without Walmart lurking somewhere
between the blades
but Farmer’s Market!
but Facebook campaigns against GMO’s!
alas, I wear a hipster hat I found at the ironic playground
and sip a locally crafted beer
sitting on the sandy bank of the Blackfoot
contemplating the dead-end
of our culture
yes, there is no going back to the milk farm
but there is no reason why
intentional communities can’t thrive
inside big box stores
the crisis of us killing our home
traces its poisonous bloom
to a crisis of imagination
a slow divorce of mind from body
our constant search
even though I know
there is more than enough hipster irony
to feed tomorrow’s anti-pastoral
I’m going to wade
into the jolting cold
of the Blackfoot river
and let its currents
pull my floating body
toward a deep back-eddy
where full submersion
will kill the sound of cars
blasting down highway 200
like there’s no tomorrow