This poem is a poem I would like to dedicate to Richard Gilbert, author of the book Shepherd, for though he has focused in that book on the livestock part of the farming picture, he clearly knows what he is about with the whole scene. I come myself from farmers on one side of the family, and I come from an area where there are a lot of small family farms, though the area is known best for coal and a burgeoning tourist industry. I hope you will find something in this poem to reassure and restore you if you are at a time in your day, week, month, year, or life when not much seems to be happening, and you are getting either bored, frustrated, or aggrieved.
Fallow Times when the fields must lie fallow And we must learn to appreciate What is sown wildly From the next empty field over (for what's next over is never really empty) Are harder than times of great industry. The wind blows, we know And we watch discontentedly As strange plants spring up In our beloved plots, And not even the revenge we plan to take Plowing them under and into the ground In the spring To improve the soil Quite makes up to us for the lost time And the waiting, which seem endless. Sowing seeds and setting out seedlings Will be next on our list of things to do Once we have gotten even With the weeds and throwbacks That rule our fields now. And yet it's far too soon to think About new life today. Or is it? Aren't we always considering The visions and revisions That spring up in our off hours, While we go about the usual tasks, The support tasks For our main endeavors? The fields are just the scene The hard work just the staging For our miracle of growth, Which always amazes us When it matures correctly And well. Though why are we surprised, Isn't it for this that we fought so With weather, and soil and sun And diseases and pests That threatened to wipe out Our yield? And yet it all begins anew, Every time, With our being willing to pause, Let the field become random again, No choices made, No daisy or gillyflower upstart Either favored or excluded No clover pulled up Except by the fertilizing beasts, Who have their own use for it. So let us not think badly Of our fallow time, As if we were doing nothing When actually we are learning The patience of the to-be-taught, The once farther back degree Of remoteness from our goals, Which will lead us, we hope, Eventually To choose them With more foresight, Better grasp of what can grow Where, And what our own role is In the cycles we follow. For fallow is the divining time Wherein God sees our hearts And honors or denies, In preview, Our most and least grandiose Human schemes Before we even know we have them. Fallow is a kind of love For possibilities Which yet takes all abandonment To itself as one after another The particularities fall away To become our new specific. Fallow is just the measure Of where we were Before we even had a soul's root-clutch On its Maker for its keep, And even before The sky knew how to weep. ©Victoria Leigh Bennett, 1/26/17
Professor Gilbert, if you read this, I hope you will be generous with my understanding of farming procedures; I’m not myself proficient with much other than houseplants! Shadowoperator