The Abandoned Farm

By Mary Rose O'Reilley
In the northwest corner of Dakota, I saw a room
someone had left, a plush sofa returning its button-
eyed stare to the glance she gave it over her shoulder,
the dog, too, turning. In the next room, the mattress,
with mattress stories one after another tumbling
out of each spring, the window she opened first thing,
its vista of mile after mile, and the windmill hauling
its load.
                        I saw that, and nothing alive—

green oil-figured linoleum laid on counters,
nails of bad craft, the ripped blackening edge
that scared her more than the bed and the sound
of the windmill winning its will from the aquifer
night after night, the whack of her blade on the block.
There are houses with too many knives sometimes she said,

but when June ferned its way in she'd relent, take on its
restraint, heave again on the stained sheets her burden
of child, herself a torn girl again, combing her hair
through fingers bruised by corn shocks, sweet juice
in the cuts of her life.

                                                             She began to think of the border
and mustangs without brand. At night they'd bend
over the bed and nuzzle. One ride was enough.
She had sufficient magic to cling to a mane and fare
over the windowsill. I see where the curtain fell
and nobody mended the tear, I see where bare feet
marked like fossils her pass in the rain.

When he uncovers fiddleheads by the spring,
why does he always think of that first sight
of her thigh in the peach-colored dress, of his hand's
searching moss with its red-gold stamens, the spring
in that arid landscape like something from Canaan
under his tongue? Even in old age he'd ponder the moment,
lying under the moon forgiving himself, her, the world
that bred their conundrum, washed in that rain.

Source: Poetry (March 2007).


This poem originally appeared in the March 2007 issue of Poetry magazine

March 2007
 Mary Rose O'Reilley


Mary Rose O’Reilley is the author of five books of essays, most recently The Love of Impermanent Things: A Threshold Ecology (Milkweed, 2006), and one book of poetry, Half Wild (LSU Press, 2006). She lives in Minnesota where she studies music, functional pottery, and various aspects of sustainable agriculture.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Love, Landscapes & Pastorals, Youth, Time & Brevity, Nature, Relationships, Coming of Age, Parenthood, Realistic & Complicated

Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse

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