poet Sheena Blackhall

Sheena Blackhall

Barley

As a child, I loved the sacks of seed
That slumbered in the barn like slack-mouthed toads.

I'd plunge small wrists for pleasure in the amber pellets,
Squander fistfuls from a ten-foot drop
Onto a dirt-caked yard, for hens to peck.

At ploughing time, I'd watch the broken sod
Topple before the blade, wide to the frosty skies;
Eye-slits of soil, overshot by screaming gulls.

At sowing time, the land closed in, grew secret,
Corn suckled sustenance within that great, black, pod.

On lark-swung days,
When webs were bead-strung dew,
My eyes would glisten at the sight
Of mists of just-new green,
The field, a beetle splitting wings in flight.

Daily the ranks crept up, banners unfurling —
Delicate tips of grains, with nails of polished pearl,
Thin beards, uncurling
Under a bronze sun; braided crowns, tossed haughty,
Top-heavy tribal knots, stood mustering,
Clustering, whispering reedy tales to one another.

Most musical, they sang all sweetly-humming summer...
At night, each was a lamplighter, pale as murmuring ghost.

Then came the harvest, turning wheel of the cart.
The field, alive with farmhands, whistling, cursing,
Grey rats scuttling; combine clacking, cutting,
Chewing the barley up and into store, a golden pour
Of grain, raining through shafts of sun.
Children capering, women bringing tea in flasks
With baskets of buttered scones.
A trampling, gleaning, getting... the final transaction
Of the farming year.
And I a part of it,
Shouting, hurrahing, leaping from dyke to dyke
With snapping, racing, dogs
The world gone drunk with the joy of it,
That was the way of it.

Then the others left. The hush was haunting.
Alone on the dusty stage, the players packed and stacked,
Oh, it was daunting
That empty silence, there, on the plundered hill,
The harvest won, and lost.

The still field seemed forsaken,
Lamenting its children, taken.
I wanted to kneel and thank it -
The land from which we fed -
But lacked the knowledge; touched it
With a reverent hand instead;
The torn stubble scratched me
And I bled.

Poem Submitted: Sunday, June 14, 2009
Poem Edited: Tuesday, July 14, 2009

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Comments about Barley by Sheena Blackhall

  • Akhtar Jawad (4/10/2018 8:29:00 AM)

    A nice descriptive poem..........................

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  • Tim Caton (8/29/2009 11:10:00 AM)

    I love your descriptions which draw the reader into the reality of the scene.
    'Then came the harvest, turning wheel of the cart. The field, alive wth farmhands, whistling, cursing. Grey rats scuttling; combine clacking, cutting etc..'.

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