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.
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?
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.
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)