LOCUSPOINT: Maine, August 31, 2011

Of her region, editor Dawn Potter wrote, “Maine is an enormous state, and also a lonely one. Our largest city, Portland, is a blip on the cities-of-the-world map, last metropolitan outpost of the Northeast Corridor, an urbane seaside burg that is liable, among airport baggage handlers, to be confused with Oregon. Yet Portland lies in far southern Maine. Above it looms the bulk of our craggy, thin-soiled, brief-summered land mass, jutting awkwardly toward the seas of Greenland, toiling into the Canadian wilderness—few people and fewer roads and as cold as a rat’s ass for eight months of the year.”

In the weeks since her edition went live, Dawn noted, “The Maine edition hasn’t been out for very long yet, but already I’ve received many responses from other Maine readers and writers. Most seem to be excited about the edition, but I’ve also heard a few of them express reservations about the ‘darkness’ of my curated poems. This interests me, not only because I feel that the poems are far more ambiguously moody than the word ‘darkness’ implies but also because the image of an ideal Maine is so powerful, even in the minds of long-time Mainers. For writers, it can be hard, very hard, to balance deep love for a place with a simultaneous need to admit its flaws and travesties. But then again, isn’t that struggle exactly what we face with all of our long-time loves?”

She selected this poem by Leonore Hildebrandt, “Field Notes,” for this retrospective:

Field Notes

Wind soured with silage: on the hill
north of town, a farmer keeps Black Angus cows.
Wooden barn tilts on the right of the road,
New England farm house sprawls to the left—
and the black calves have a clear view
of green meadows, the hills, and the town’s distant glint
from the small pen
where they live in brown-black morass,
where they feed on limp roughage, patiently,
their ears poised for answers.

Sun! The meadow is dressed in light and moisture.
Old apple trees, three or four below the barn,
still hold on to yellow, shrunken fruit.
A Family Farm, the sign says.
Perhaps it is a matter of scope. Or voracity.
So that the middleman who wages price tags
and contracts can squeeze them
into the bite-sized lot.
The middleman never sleeps nearby.

The grass has been mowed, hauled off,
packed and sealed under plastic.
Now it rains in the hills,
black calves crowding at the rack.
Movement is habitual:
how to lie down on a muddy slope.

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