Wednesday, July 13, 2016

July 13: Short Post, Bonnie Jo Campbell, "When She Goes Out to Plow"

Tonight's post is going to be short.  I got home late.  Writer Bonnie Jo Campbell was doing a question-and-answer session at a local library, and a friend and I attended.  For those of my disciples unfamiliar with Bonnie Jo and her work, she wrote the New York Times bestseller Once Upon a River.

I went to school with Bonnie Jo.  In fact, she and I were students in a writing workshop together once.  She was the golden child of the class, and I was . . . not.  Understandably.  Bonnie Jo is, quite simply, a wonder.  When we spoke, she sort of remembered me, which means that she remembered the class that we were both in.  That's about it.  She did, however, remember a poem of mine that she loved.  That was quite the compliment.

Anyway, that is why this post is short and late.  (I also picked up a new laptop from the university, so I had to spend some time configuring my settings and registering it online.)

In honor of Bonnie Jo, I have included one of her poems below.

Saint Marty is ready for a long, long nap.

When She Goes Out to Plow

by:  Bonnie Jo Campbell

She ties the boy in his crib,

though he’s too big
for the crib, after nursing,
though he is too big to nurse.
Her husband has gone out to trade
whatever men trade at the café.
It’s planting time on her dead father’s
farm, and she married
the handsomest man who made her hurt
the most. She still feels breathless
when he walks in and smiles.
It’s too cold for the boy to sit
on the tractor with her, no babysitter
in this godforsaken place. Her mama
didn’t live to teach her to fashion
solutions for the flesh
of her flesh. Her instinct for breast feeding
surprised her. She has known only
this fertile soil, the way this stretch                                                         
of the clay earth breaks into hard clumps
to allow absurd entry of seed, and the way                                                                                        
rain can soften or wash away.
She once watched a tornado turn a wooden barn
into a dance of planks and loose hay.
She used to wear her hair around her shoulders
and now her husband stays away all night.
Today she plows, and each time
the old one-story house                                         
comes into her sights, her breasts
ache, strands of hair tear free and whip her.

Bonnie Jo Campbell and friend

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