Jesse’s Farm

We’re driving and the radio says mass marine extinctions within a

generation. No silence, no sirens — an unflustered inflection, then

stock markets, cryptic as Latin mass. I force myself: the interval

between a mother and her child — not enough for refuge in numerics,

reckoning we’ll be old or gone. Her in my rear-view mirror when I skew

it. Undoing velcro:  velours crochet — the maker plucked burrs from

his sweater, studied them under a microscope. There’s a microscope

I inherited, embedded in a fake snakeskin case. Ravaged scales,

surges of herring with x’s for eyes; already they’re cartoons — I can’t

pretend because of her I should at least imagine them, the beaches I

have known, putrid at low tide or maybe a dreadful, birdless quiet —

but also I keep driving through commercial outskirts, dimly reading

blowout signs. Her chirped naming: excebator, earplane, cloud.


We’re going to Jesse’s farm, which resembles the farms in our picture

books. Ducklings hasten after lambs, pigs root in coffee-ground soil.

Fences are makeshift there. Being from life, it isn’t bloodless. A sow

with a taste for chicks. The peacock, ornate as a cabaret, reigning from

the coop roof, lunging at what moves. Almost there — words half

sung, but even my breast milk has an undertow.


So we’re driving. Not with sirens. To the farm that resembles a

refuge. Siren is the genus of a salamander eel. Sirenia, the order of

the placid, grazing manatee. If I spoon-feed her the beloved world

enough, is it?


Ravaged tides to picture. It isn’t bloodless. Mirror, daughter, what

will I wish that I did?


Which isn’t what I say. Hello old farm-gates, hello cedars.


Here we are.

Dive in

1. Who is the speaker in this poem, and what is her relation to the other main character?

2. There is a density of language, of words on the page, with this poem – do you see this as reflective of the poem’s content? What relation do you see between the subject(s) of the poem and the density of the first stanza?

3. What do you think the poet means by “Being from life, it isn’t bloodless” in the second stanza? How does this reflect on the larger subjects of mass extinctions, environmental degradation, and motherhood?

4. There is such an ache in the lines “If I spoon-feed her the beloved world / enough, is it?” What is the mother grappling with in these lines, in terms of life and mothering and nature?

5. If you were reciting this poem, where would you pause for a shift in tone? How would you show the words that are in the speaker’s voice?

Writing Exercise

Write a poem about a real place in nature that you know, with the possibility of including a child or someone else dear to you, who doesn’t yet know the environmental threat hovering behind. Show both your love for the place, and the danger, without tipping over into preaching or cliché.

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Bibliographical info

Sadiqa de Meijer, "Jesse's Farm". Copyright © 2013 by Sadiqa de Meijer. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Source: Leaving Howe Island (Oolichan Books, 2013)


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