Poetry of Claire Hersom
Winter was the worst.
The farm windows iced inside, wind howled
down off the upper field; through the gauze
curtains it kissed our foreheads, noses buried
in featherbed crazy-quilts. Wooden spindle
framed our heads. It was too cold for ceiling mice.
We always had to pee just before dawn.
When the woodstove fire dwindled,
you could see your breath.
I’d poke my sister to come down the loft stairs
out to the three hole-r in the shed; an unbearable deed.
We’d pull on the crocheted slippers from Great Aunt Ann,
only holding heat for a few steps, down we went,
hands entwined, the flannel nighties hoisted up,
our little derrieres hovering; then jack rabbit quick,
back we went to snuggle while the snow stung the tin roof edge.
We’d cuddle together, drift back to sleep, dreams of flap jacks
and Anadama Bread warm in the kitchen for breakfast.
Supper at the Farm
Nothing prepared me for my grandfather’s
peculiar brand of jurisprudence;
the kind he wielded outside
on the north corner of the farm
where his axe sang hallelujah over the
necks of chickens; one minute
their stuttering walk mimicking palsy,
the next in frantic flight, running headless.
Like an odd baptism after the fact,
dipped in the scalding water bucket of floating feathers,
it was last rites for a useless heart.
Dunk and pull – Nana didn’t mind the bird in her kitchen sink
to gut and clean, she’d truss across the open belly
like she was mending socks; a plain prosperity.
When dusk fell, it filtered through the farmhouse window
on steaming plates of fresh snapped beans; fluffed
potatoes from the upper field, dotted with
butter – hand churned and set a few days ago.
I bowed my head, swallowed the apparition
rising out of the white and voiceless breast,
the tasty little wing, and dug in.