Heading past Green Giant corn mills on Hwy 13
Toward Wahpeton, he squints at the sun and says:
Nope, I don’t think they do anything these days
With hogs or cattle. No prize pheasants either.
The big barn with its ribbed roof and steel braces
Slouches now beside the silo that has a rusted cap—
One summer night I climbed halfway up and fell off,
Landing right smack on top of a manure wagon!
Long hours, days into night, combining corn and wheat
To fill dust-cloudy bins and put food on the table;
Year after year, grappling with rain-soaked bales
To bed down heifers and raise a fortress against winter;
Acres of electric fences, feeders, and grain augurs—
Uncle Kenny and I built all that up over forty years
And now it sets there empty and neglected.
Son, it’s hard sometimes to have to change hands.
Jeff Jentz, Jan 2011
WISHBONE FOR THOMAS MCGRATH
Tom, windy-eyed Thoreau boy,
Sitting alone tonight in your Minneapolis apartment.
Build a log cabin in your head.
Or else a farm! More places to discover
Beyond the power lines and dark smoky sugar beet mills
And those missile silos dreaming under the frozen prairie sod.
Better yet, invoke an army of savvy organic farmers
With their boots firmly planted in the humus of the future—
Seizing the hour at such a time
To raise aloft the green standard of Universal Peace and Justice.
Meanwhile, your resistless spirit haunts Dakota.
And the streetlamps of Fargo keep vigil in the starry night
Where your breath is blowing still. Words you sowed
Await now, like winter wheat, to leaven the souls of artists.
Poet, go on furiously scribbling your vision into the dawn,
Seeking to reclaim both worlds,
in your writing shack
the Red River…
Jeff Jentz 12/15/10
Our smoky errands here are like the candle
Glow of a child’s beside prayer.
Precarious angels and demons are whipped
Around the room by the chilly breeze
Coming through the fluttering curtains.
The flame, too, feels strong on its wick
Until the bright saber cools
And cannot cut what is only fear.
We give off the same wax, vapors, oily clouds
That stain the roses on the wallpaper.
Our shadows climb the walls
Or embrace the blazing log on the hearth.
The night table spins farther away into the dark
As we trace the mist on the windowpane,
Wrapped in midnight questions and doubts . . .
And the stars drifting above and beyond,
Always just out of reach in the blue,
Elude the halo of our fitful lights,
Here sending a signal so ardently upward.
“Conserve on all except light,” He said.
Only tilt the candle, Abdu’l-Baha, closer.
Closer, Abdu’l-Baha, closer!
Note: Originally I wrote this poem in fall 1973 after I discovered the Baha’i Faith at a fireside through the words and teachings of Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the Prophet-Founder.