September-November 2014

The three poems selected for this posting relate to the concerns of work. Seasonal Unemployment and How to Succeed in Apiculture were written during the last years of my professional life. They seem to comment on the process whereas The Industrialization of Silk  critiques means and ends. It was completed during the first months of my retirement, in plenty of time!

For readers who would like to hear a poem,  I have recorded a sound file of Seasonal Unemployment. Clicking on the triangle initiates playback.

Seasonal Unemployment [Download]

Seasonal Unemployment

 

Once I was a scarecrow
with acres of corn in my care.
I watched generations of seeds
grow up and flourish.
They made me feel alive.

Since then, with each harvest
leaving me less to do,
more to reflect on,
it´s becoming
as clear as clouds
that I´m no longer
needed by the farmer
who made me his
stand in.

Now, autumn´s night frost
freeze dries my stitches,
and every day almost
winter winds pick them apart.
Limb by limb, I´m losing
all my inner support:
straw´s running out,
a broomstick’s severed.

In a barn, somewhere,
there´s a man
weighing his good fortune.
And here I am — over the hill,
facing a field full
of nothing.

 

How to Succeed in Apiculture

 

Plenty of bees swarming around
his hive, others flying in,
and out…

With veiled enthusiasm,
he’s there to take stock of the boxes,
prying not to upset any
while looking for honeycombs.
Those chosen for culling
should be found dripping, larger
than a man’s hands.
For stowing, his back’s
strapped with a knapsack
which, like always,
should soon be bulging;
by the end of summer,
much too small.

As for the bees, they’d
be a wild bunch without him;
their nest no more than a batch
of wax branching from a tree
nowhere near this pasture sown
with rye and clover.

The Industrialization of Silk

 

One summer, with the Empire in full bloom,
the mulberry trees stood leafless,
their branches alive with
tea colored cocoons.
Legend says that some fell
into a bucket of boiling water,
ending up as threads ready for weaving.

The first bolt was rushed to Court—
a fabric so fine it tingled, so light
it fluttered from hand to hand.
Finally, after much discussion
and no consensus, the Emperor decreed
that only nobles who paid taxes
could trade in silk.
He also forbad exporting
the eggs, with good reason…
Outside his realm, rulers
were as greedy as thieves,
and ruthless.

That was millenniums ago.
Now all sorts of bolts, from crepe
to taffeta, are produced, worldwide,
on high-speed looms. And thanks to genetics,
the larvae eat less, grow faster, spin
larger cocoons. Even the dirty work
of boiling is automated; no longer
done by artisans on a small scale.
Given today’s demand for silk, the worms
need to be massacred.

1 comment to September-November 2014

  • Beautiful imagery tinged with sadness. All three poems take readers to another world. Question: what’s the meaning of “the worms need to be massacred” at the end of the last poem?

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