I am reading five books at once again, so it must be winter.
As a caterpillar, having come to the end of one blade of grass, draws itself together and reaches out for the next, so the Self, having come to the end of one life and dispelled all ignorance, gathers his faculties and reaches out from the old body to a new. (The Upanishads)
The old body— body with thick palms and knife-knicked fingers— the body mostly bare— sun-bearing body— young muscled, woman body— body in fever in spasm in pain— O darling body we did it again. The crop came in, flowers hung above each bed.
O ignorance, vast category of all that I don't know I don't know. I ask only for a next teacher as green as this last field, as replete with teachings as shades of green, as demanding of my whole self, as haunted and futurist, and rooted in the factual heat of the day.
Workmates, you who held me precious as a good boot— I miss seeing you in tomorrow's clean shirt, with nothing new to report but your last dream that came before sunup.
So what's the next dream? I am asked by anyone near enough to know my deepest era has come to an end— no love, no schooling, no home has had more of my years. Poems is my only solid answer, though of course there will be verbs. Poets are those who leap blind to the next word— maybe it is a rung, maybe it is birth, maybe it is the embrace of the sea. Whole acres are burning and we are surrounded by guns; all I can assure you under these conditions is that the whole factory of my being is in the business of love, a clean burn.
And what is it to work with love? It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth. It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house. It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit. It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit, and to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching. —Khalil Gibran
Yes, the blessed dead, they are with us in the field— whenever I taste the first tomato, I wear my grandpa's grin. At the Day of Mourning last Thursday in Plymouth, an 88-year-old man read Leonard Peltier's latest letter from prison. If I die in here, he said, bury me face down with a sign on my ass that says KISS MY ASS, in case they dig me up to study my bones. Smiles shared space with pain on the faces in the frozen crowd. Free him. May he be freed.
I don't know clearly what freedom looks like on this land, but I know first we need to stop. My ancestors partook of the myth that is extraction without return. They took and taking became our nation's way. When my arms ache with the weight of potatoes, it is a taking, and when I give them a price too. If there is a wiser way to feed and be fed, I am here, stopped, looking for it.
Until then, if you have a baby coming, I would be honored to stand at your shoulder for the birth. If you want to hear a poem, I've got a lot. If you want to hang in the garden, it's all of ours. Next year's garlic is already underground there. Come spring if you have an idea for what needs planting, there is room for your mother's medicine, there is room around the fire for your secret meeting of minds. There's a new bed in the back. Its dimensions are the same as a solitary confinement cell— its aim is to be portal in and out of prison— already it has taken me there to visit one of the people who will be co-gardening it with me. My friend Arya Serenity, who has been imprisoned at the ACI for 11 years will be released in January, in time to plant our first plum tree. Someday the walls of the bed will dissolve; may the walls they represent follow.
Fall's practice is heartbreak, winter's gift is pause. Let go says every branch, lay your body down say the tender crops under frost. It is possible at the exact moment of heartbreak to know something else is beginning, but usually that is just what one of your women tries to remind you while you are on your ass weeping between tomato rows. A big end is like the arrival over me of a tall wave, for a minute I'm just in it, diving through, while the muscle of sea flexes around me. I will be writing the poem of this farm forever. I will have dirt under my nails til I die. I am leaving the old body yes, reaching now for the next.
(Thanks to Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm, least of all for sharing the Gibran quotation above at your recent visit to Providence, most of all for opening your mouth to the ancestors whose stories we need, for building a farm of the future now, for asking us to ask each other what is possible in the word freedom on this land and grow it together.)