Bitter-Sweet, Valley Farm
2004 by Ellin Anderson


Ellin Anderson

There is a fountain, mute and nearly still,
That rises from the valley soil to spill
Its wealth on barn and milkshed where they meet,
Bathed in the autumn vine called bitter-sweet.
And, like the embers of October suns
That rose reflected in the tide that runs
Below the meadow where the grass was deep,
Where cattle were content, where sheep were sheep,
This harvest traps the glory of the dawn
In bursting pods that shed their armor on
The path of one who owed what was his own
To Nature and a strong right arm alone.
Saw-grass that made my bones, that drew my blood
Beside the rushing Merrimack in flood —
Swift as Time’s current, where our hopes are tossed,
Swept up with salt and sand, but never lost —
You stir within me like remembered Springs,
Pear-blossoms, mourning doves on whirring wings,
Green fields no wheel or poison can destroy,
If scattered earth can feed the roots of joy.

The Ladies' Steps

The Ladies' Steps, Valley Farm
2004 by Ellin Anderson


He led me through the fragrance of warm hay
And cows, one diamond-frosted Christmas Day,
So I could name the dairy’s newest calf —
Carol, in honor of the festive season;
And now I wonder if he had a reason
For calling on a little girl of five
To name the baby, when so many other
Neighborhood children would have loved the treat
Of seeing Carol, greedy for her mother,
Tottering on long legs across her stall —
So little and so sweet, we had to laugh.
I think I may have helped her find her feet —
She seemed to like the name she heard us call,
And shouldn’t she leap into life, and thrive,
Named for the song of joy an angel sings
Against a winter sky, milk-white and blue?
I sang a song of Christmas on the drive
Back home, enchanted by the day that brings
Kind angels like the dairyman who knew
I was the one to find the words for things.


Valley Farm

Valley Farm
2004 by Ellin Anderson


Fall’s rosary, the last flames of the year,
Still glowing when Spring’s blossoms first appear;
The last hues quickened by the sun’s descent;
Last garland for the ones who lived content
To pluck gold laurels from the harrow’s teeth:
The sweet and bitter in a victor’s wreath.
Bound to the land, harsh freedom their reward,
They left the plough to strap on spur and sword,
Until the last who kept our shores from harm
Made war his only respite from the farm,
And worked until he died. A heart that fine,
As fragile as an antique valentine,
Could not endure or understand the crew,
Compelled by appetites he never knew,
Who wreck the homesteads hand-built to command
A humble yeoman’s vast expanse of land.
Now thirty shining mansions greet the sun:
From one the many, and from many, one
That jerks its herd-head backwards to recoil
From lives lived of and not above the soil.


Ruth and Griff's Chairs

Ruth and Griff's Chairs, Valley Farm
2004 by Ellin Anderson


On all those sunny mornings when my light
Was gleaned from shadows lapping in the dark,
He brought the wealth of clover, pink and white,
And notes of cheer, straight from the meadowlark.
In pastures where the bluebird built her nest,
The lowing cattle — each graced with a name —
Drew nourishment for those denied a breast
From honeyed flowers. Never fully tame,
They made their little sallies into town,
Gazed in at families of the human ilk,
Ate windfall apples and kicked fences down —
The taste of liberty was in their milk.
No heifer splashes through the glassy tarn,
Or skips in meadows where the bobwhite cried;
Two empty chairs sit in the dusty barn:
Absence and Silence rest there side by side —
And yet, within so many waking dreams
The red truck rumbles by at dawn to cast
A clarity the sun drowns with its beams,
Like rays of moonlight shaken from the past.


Cow Shed and Barn

Cow Shed and Barn, Valley Farm
2004 by Ellin Anderson


There is a cloud as pale as life-in-death
Of that frail flower known as baby’s breath
In bloom beside the hearth he used to know —
Warm haven for his pets — a crippled crow,
The collie dog who frolicked at his feet
Through days that mixed the bitter with the sweet.
Charmed by the caroling of rainbow birds,
His clan united hearts and hands and herds:
Three hundred years of strength that left no sign,
Save our remembering: “Some of that is mine.”
And now, upon a sparkling summer day,
The foreman and his boys will close our play,
By cataloging something that was good:
They mark and number every piece of wood,
And take the old barn down to raise elsewhere —
A primer rich with lessons it could share,
Should Time unlock the echoes in each rafter:
The sounds of labor and rare Yankee laughter.
Let it be done — unseal the cornerstones,
And let the sun reveal a nation’s bones.


Light on the Farmer
2004 by Ellin Anderson


2004 by Ellin Anderson. All rights reserved.  No part of this work may be copied or used in any  way without written permission from the author.


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Ellin Anderson's Biography