The Super Bowl was trotted out yet again last week, an event that would have entirely escaped my attention if it hadn’t been for an agricultural brouhaha surrounding a Bud Light commercial. Forgive me for not actually seeing the commercial in real time, or even going back and watching it after the fact; I spared myself this optical indigestion by hearing it blared through the headlines.
From what I’ve been able to decipher, Bud Light aired an ad pushing against corn syrup, and America’s grain farmers–who were all ears–took umbrage. Turns out this country ain’t big enough for two golden nostrums! Of course a social media showdown quickly ensued (cue bow-legged lobbyists flourishing limp-wristed pistols at the Not-OK-Corral). Trigger fingers were triggered! Tweets were fired! Facebookers liked/didn’t like certain posts! In short, it was another 45 minute news cycle.
Here’s my world-weary take on it:
Farm Poem #3
Bud Light is at war with agribusiness,
A super bowl of big mouths:
King Corn versus the King of Beers,
Where farmers score points by
Pouring soil down the sink.
How fitting, a battle down the tubes,
On the tubes, in our tubes–
Nostalgic as milk and Cheerios,
No! The same!
Take your bowl of beer and grain
And slurp it up your corn hole.
Dilly dilly, silly!
We are what you eat.
Kings are always
The first to inform us
There can only be
Farming is commonly the stressor and the therapy both at once. Some crazy job! The trick, of course, is being grateful for the good, and maintaining healthy perspective regarding the not-so-good. Again, quite a task; for me, writing helps. Here’s an example:
Farm Poem 2
To our lady of broken boards,
Saints of rotted fence posts,
Guardian angels of leaking barn roofs;
To ghosts of harvests failed,
Shades of pastures paltry,
Spirits of humus future;
To the Jesus of bent nails,
Buddha of clogged filters,
Vishnu of dead batteries,
We leave our skin, scraped and torn,
Our palms, our knuckles—
To DJs of dubious country lyrics,
Pink cammoed confederates,
Dating sites of bucolic animosity;
To two-star Yelp reviewers of February eggs,
Instagrammers of self-anointed pulchritude;
To politicians feckless and infecund,
Thirty-nine cent turkey hucksters,
Fuelers and feeders who gaslight fooders;
Our self-righteous indifference hard-won,
We leave a thousand mile stare—
To petri-petro-burger enablers,
Vegan bacon warriors,
Flexitarians of prodigious fluctuations;
To lines eternal at Chick-fil-A,
Invisaligned teeth ribboned with flesh,
Mouths stretch-stuffed with white feathers;
To daydream dreamers of perfect sleeps;
Nightmare-sleepers of Saturday nights;
Lucid dreams of re-dreamed workdays;
We leave the numbers of our therapists—
Talking our way to stillness, dollars forever well-spent—
And to carrots cosmically entwined,
Baler twine torqued into pristine knots,
Stars dropped like matches from midnight skies;
To fragrantly seasoned firewood,
Broken-in brown coats,
6,000 hour tractors;
To dogs mostly good,
Milk-eyed barn cats,
The goat that talked us out of goats;
To exes of inestimable patience,
Spouses and partners of inestimable patience,
Future lovers of inestimable patience,
We leave heart-shaped stones,
Unpocketed haphazard on the hearth,
Plucked fresh from the tilth
Where soil, once clinging, crumbles.
Last week, Mary Oliver died. Foremost among the many reasons I admired Oliver was for her accessibility. Her charm, in my opinion, was found in her ability to turn high-minded observations into bouquets of plain-speak. All great poets have a way with words. But my favorites, like Mary Oliver, allow words to reveal the way.
Like Oliver, I’ve always been enormously influenced by Walt Whitman. Whitman spent his entire life revising his magnum opus, Leaves Of Grass–a living canon if ever there was. If you haven’t picked it up lately, I encourage you to do so: it is deeply alive, jumping off the page, prescient and vital for the 21st century. Understand that Whitman was our first grass-finished poet!
Oliver, like Whitman, understood that writing requires a pulse; that words, like everything alive, ultimately result from photosynthesis. Energy is eternal. Micro is macro. The temporal is holy. To our endless delight, Mary Oliver revealed this over and over.
In honor of my favorite poets–and to provide some minor meditation in my own life–I’m starting a new weekly series called Farm Poems. I plan to write fifty-two, and see where they lead. They will be thoughts, portraits, musings and devotions to my farm, Smith Meadows, and to the daily turn of the calendar. Good poems and good farms should be synonyms. I hope you enjoy them.
Farm Poem #1
January is as constant as it can’t,
Warm with snow,
Gray with color,
Darkness blinding bright.
The creek, of course, runs on,
Rimed with ice,
Steam above the spring,
And there the watercress waits,
Tresses like fair Ophelia,
Just beneath the surface