Saturday poetry pick: Stubble Field

In Stubble Field, published by Silverfish Review Press, Paul Hunter takes a good hard look at good hard work, and the lives of people working the land. These poems are filled with reminiscence, with humor and empathy–and their strong rhythm and lack of punctuation enhance their musing quality. Yet the images are concrete and tenacious–you are there, and you won’t forget.

Reading the poems, I thought of Donald Hall’s Life Work and Wendell Berry’s Fidelity. All three a good way to get another look at our part of the world and the part we might play in it.

Here is one of my favorite poems from the collection:

The Touch

Though most worked off to themselves
pritnear all the folks studied
some trick of their own to fall back on

got known for doing far and wide
what looked natural as falling off a log
like one old boy could tie a grain sack knot

quick as a cat at spilt milk
one could shuck a dried corn ear
spill a gold twist in his hat

like wringing a young chicken’s neck
some could stir fire in a woodstove
boil coffee up a couple seconds flat

and talk of secret recipes who’d dare
bring cornbread to the potluck
if Rosalie felt up to baking hers

everyone could sharpen axes knives
though stropping razors to a fare-thee-well
came like pie to the storekeep

some could worry through a certain tune
on the squeeze box or gitfiddle
that most never quite got the hang of

a few could do sums in their head
some cooking never measured out a thing
seemed like what they threw together

would always land about perfect
some ventured nothing but a grin
a knack for the kind word when needed

but none expected dinner to appear
without their lifting a finger
or a song to start up on its own

that not a soul could remember
and canning snap beans rolling pie crust out
shingling a hip roof never leak a drop

should anybody run into a hitch
they’d wrack their brains to recollect
who heareabouts could do what needed done

go ask for help admit they had the touch
and sure would be applauded going at
what no one else could figure out a lick