The Harvest C(r)op
How to relate the everyday to poetry while in the act of being the poem. Working my way underneath this city I love, I latch onto a dragon's back circumnavigating the subway system during the week.
The mass of suits and perfume crammed through corridors burrowed beneath concrete reminders, swimming the juice-pulse through the city's membrane. Underneath all that motion, the subway vibrating all those spirits up through rock and metal. Creeley's "Chasing the Bird": 'The sun sets unevenly and the people / go to bed. / The night has a thousand eyes. / The clouds are low, overhead. / Every night it is a little bit / more difficult, a little / harder. My mind / to me a mangle is.' My daily commute from the green of the Hudson Valley to the grey of Manhattan skyscrapers, accented during harvest time.
Our garden which began with such promise this Spring gradually suffered neglect over the summer. My wife and I, still getting our 'green' on after moving up here from the city, are learning a solar definition of time...at odds with the city definition I grew up with. After so many years walking to work, from the East Village to Soho, my separation anxiety from the city has settled into a complex groove, a sort of misplaced territory that has become the travel itself. The hope of permanence beyond the change...highlighted by the prospect of land, soil, earth in my fingernails. We have this huge fenced-in garden, inherited from the previous owners, which had a variety of veggies planted in the Spring, doing okay...until the exhaustion of weeding (clever tricksters how they assume shapes of neighboring plants, the easier to pass right over them) and watering proved overwhelming. And there was Tim, the lawn guy, with his giant machine mowing down the overgrown rupture for us. And there we were yesterday, looking at this dried-out wound, resolved to its conclusion, remembering that potatoes had been planted in the center. A spark of hope. Sun came out, as if saying, 'go for it.' The three of us, digging through the potato patch, unearthing spud after spud. Russian Fingerlings, Yukon Golds, Red Pontiacs, 80 potatoes in total...fantastic! What farmers we were...below the surface anyway. And then the crows.
Hundreds of them, a murder of crows. They've been gathering over the last month, in the trees and land in front of the house, just a few here and there. Until yesterday, before the potato episode, I looked out front in the morning and was shocked to see hundreds of them. A gang, I thought, before murder. I immediately recalled Ted Hughes' book, Crow, and its alchemical allegories. One of the first books of poetry in my lunch bag thanks to Steve Cannon, who ran The Stoop workshops with Bob Holman before the Friday Night Slams at the Nuyorican...those workshops were my salve, a guiding light from stage to page. I'd forgotten about the poems in that book, how phantasmic the protaganist seemed. Battling the sun back 'when crow was white' emerging defeated and black, yet managing 'up there, where white is black and black is white, I won.' A chilling declaration of will over being.
I worried that our home had attracted such a large number, investigated online to make sure their myth aligned with mine. One of, if not the smartest of all birds, deemed the Trickster in folk tales, signifying change. The keeper of sacred laws, able to bend the laws of the physical universe, asking you to "shapeshift" your current reality into one of your dreams. Heady stuff. So I guess they weren't so bad, but the Hitchcock reality got me spooked. I went outside and flapped my arms a bit, just to scare them away. The intelligence of a six-foot scarecrow in a red hoodie, chasing the bird, doing my job to protect family, up here during harvest time.
A self-proclaimed “lingualisualist” rooted in the languages of sight and sound, Edwin Torres was born in the Bronx and is a longtime resident of New York City. He is a poet whose highly acclaimed performances and live shows combine vocal and physical improvisation and theater. He is the author of...