Georgic: How to Start a Black Walnut Tree Farm


This poem was written as a response to one of the prompts from NaPoWriMo, the celebration of April as National Poetry Month. The prompt was “Georgic”, a poem which could be a simple set of instructions on how to grow or care for something, but it could also incorporate larger themes as to how land should be used (or not used), or for what purposes.

Step I:

Have one tree already growing

On the property you are eyeing

For the farm.

Step II:

Make sure at least one squirrel

Lives nearby.

Step III:

Let the ripened nuts

In their prickly

Green husks

Fall to the ground.

Step IV:

Leave them there.

Step V:

Watch the squirrels pick them up

And bury them nearby.

Step VI:

Watch the ones

The squirrels forget about

Sprout the next year.

Step VII:

Let them grow for about

Four years

Then thin them out

So that the stronger ones


Step VIII:

Harvest the smaller ones

And sell them to folks

Who make them into

Pen barrels

And other small objects

Which are sold as

Much desired possessions

To folks who have everything.

Be mindful, though.

Those pens may be used

To sign Presidential Executive Orders

Bev Hartford







Remembering As I Go

How many moments in your life can you recall  a time you were doing practically nothing, when a sharp sense of “I need to remember this” came over you? Perhaps you were ten. You could have been younger.  Some feeling washed over you that indicated time was passing, that the beautiful, sun-dappled sidewalk you were moseying along, the spring breeze,  so lovely,  would be different or gone in 10 years. That the moment was pretty perfect.  You needed to somehow capture it; to remember it exactly as it was that day for your older self later, in case she forgets.

There was a large double swing at my College that hung from an enormous tree on front campus. Swinging with my best friend one pristine autumn day my freshman year, I was free and smart and at peace with my new-found (though sheltered) independence, knowing I’d probably never be so completely un-encumbered and on the cusp of infinite possibility again.  “Remember this.” I thought, “You’ll need to remember this one day.”

 Paddling shirtless in the upper Ontario wilderness a couple years later: “Do not forget you were this strong, this connected to water and sky.”

 Pregnant after pregnancy losses, looking out at the pines from a back porch Carolina rocking chair when it looked like the baby inside me would be born soon: “This is what you’ve wanted, don’t forget what life growing inside you feels like, your profound terror, this absolute certainty”.

The one or two or maybe few days of any given year that assure you that you are a living witness –not just to an event or in some cases non-event, but to the feeling you want to remember about it: the astonishment of holding the feet of your dying friend, her struggle, her release, your sense of calm in letting her go. Or of observing the kindness of the busy fresh produce guy, patiently helping the non-english-speaking grandma at Kroger sort out one pepper over another, the way it made you cry with gratitude for a simple kindness in a crappy world. The couple in a long embrace at a corner, the man with his dog, asleep under a blooming redbud in the park.

My girl self, communing with the 18-year- old who left home, ”Don’t forget that home”, she said. “The people who lived there. The person you were”. The 20 -something me who spoke to the young Mother me, overwhelmed by her cluelessness, her loss of self. “You knew yourself under stars alone in the wilderness, you’ll know yourself here.” The younger mother I can barely remember, (so much has happened in the past two decades), told me recently that mothering was the best work of my life. And I think she’s right. And the 10 year old me, reminding us all again, it’s right to remember as you go, so you can tell yourself later how it was and what you know because of it.

I’ve been accused of being overly nostalgic. Maybe, but I think I’ve simply had a knack for keeping track and keeping all the girls and women I’ve been in my life in touch with one another.

Today the dogwood blooms in the backyard where my daughters once climbed trees and made forts. One dog, three rabbits, 2 rats, 2 hamsters, and the ashes of 2 other dogs are buried here. As I moved dirt, and cleared a new path through an overgrown section I imagine making into some kind of meditation garden, I thought “I need to remember how great I felt today, whole and happy in my slightly- aching body, losing track of time while clearing and making things. At 57, I still like finding the shape of something new in the familiar, changing ground under my feet”.

I hope we’ll all be together in another 10 years. All the pieces of me remembering together, so none of us forgets.


BLR for the Poplar Grove Muse

The Bread

The Bread


Our guide in Jerusalem took us into the Muslim Quarter—through the Lions gate—into the Old Walled City. He took 49 pilgrims down a narrow stone street and told us to walk into a bread shop to look and see where they baked the bread. We saw big bread ovens with hot sweaty Arab men tossing big sheet pans of bread in and out of stone ovens. It was a rainy day and the warm bakery seemed dark and a long way from the Kroger bakery that was familiar.

Then he passed around loaves of hot fresh sesame bread which he called Kai. He told us it was the best bread in the old city. We stood around the alley eating warm bread. 

He said, “I would be a bad Arab if I didn’t show you hospitality. I want you to feel like this is your home too.”

He referred to his home as the entire area in the old walled city. All of it. The shops and the stores and the churches. He gestures above us. More than once he reminded us that this was a living city. He showed us antennae and laundry and children on their way to school. We ate bread in the rain, awkward tourists, communion.


Later that day as we stood outside a street that marked where he lived as a child he talked more about the bread. Our tour guide, said, “Remember the bread I gave you? Anywhere you go in the old city you would get bread as good as the bread I gave you, but outside the city the bread is the same but not as good to eat. Why is that?”

He always asked us rhetorical questions, so we squirmed uncomfortably not sure of the right answer, and then he answered his own question, “Perhaps they are just better bakers in the city, or perhaps it is the spices and dust from ancient days in the air that mingles with the bread and gives it a special flavor, or perhaps it is the spirituality in the old walls–the religion of two millennia that gets baked into the bread. Whatever the reason, the bread, made by bakers in the old city is the best bread. Don’t you agree? “

And we did.

Amy for the PGM


A “secret” Facebook community of WWf(a)C writers participates in NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) each April/National Poetry Month.  Many of us look forward to this communal wordfest all year.  This is my second full-fledged, all-in experience, and I LOVE IT!!

PLEASE, if you have any inclination to do so, join us!  It’s only Day 6. Interesting info on poets, poetry, different forms and formulations are posted fresh each day at: Contact me or any other participant for an invitation to our page, and see where it might take you!

Here are two of my favorite personal efforts from this month.

Day 3: Elegy

Elegy for a Killshot

She comes to me more
and more often
in dream.
Embraced again
in the comfort
of her shining,
made whole again,
as from childhood,
I ache
with longing.
She never wavered.

In those last nights,
as she faded
from herself,
occasional terror,
and a never-before-seen
of sharp intellect
on a world unprepared.
a glimpse into where
that killer croquet shot,
on her grandfather’s farm,
even on her own
small, surprised children,
lived unimagined.

Day 4: Enigma

You came
from nothing, and,
they say,
to nothing
you will return.

We rubbed two sticks together,
ancient, archetypal rituals,
et voila,
you were.
A miracle,
a sudden, startling
presence in the room,
fiercely observant,
utterly there.

We do our very best,
pour ourselves
day upon day
into the miraculous
vessel, the presence
that day after day,
becomes more resplendent,
resonant, responsive.

And then, seemingly as soon
as you appeared,
you are nearly
out of sight,
on the horizon,
almost mirage.
like absence,
but for your indelible
imprint of unbearable love.

Mary Peckham for the Poplar Grove Muse

In the Garage on Jensen Street

I was gifted a 1976 banana yellow Buick Skylark back before I learned how to say no. My grandmother’s house needed to be sold. My father wanted the car to stay in the family, and I was in college without a car. We argued about it. I said it was too much. He disagreed.

Before making its way to me in the mountains of Appalachia, the car sat idle for decades in my grandparent’s garage. A large white steering, an old push button radio and two long white leather bench seats made up the interior. My parents hung a tropical air freshener from the rear view mirror to mask its musty, sat too long smell. They told me not to worry about the rusty trunk, but the mechanic who fixed the car for the second or third time in the couple months I owned it, told me whatever I put in the there would find its way onto the highway sooner than later.

I did love this car once, back when it lived in the Gleason’s garage on Jensen Street. Those days meant Grammie was squeezing us, frying hot dogs in butter, and there was plenty of Tropicana OJ, something Mom didn’t buy.

Twice a year we headed from Virginia to my grandparent’s house in West Hartford, Connecticut. My grandfather, paralyzed and no longer able to drive, sat in his brown recliner, while my grandmother, who was rarely able to leave the house, cared for him. Once in a while, my father took the Buick out for a drive, but mostly it lived in the stories he told. We’d laugh no matter how many times he said the car, once sky blue, was painted yellow when my grandmother forgot where she parked one too many times.

While my parents helped my grandparents and visited, my sister and I played in the deep New England snow, and in the summer walked to my father’s old elementary school hoping there were kids to play with on the playground. We watched hours of Madonna and Cindy Lauper on MTV, made up dances to Like a Virgin and Girls Just Wanta Have Fun way before we knew what the songs were about, and ate all our meals on TV trays. Sometimes I’d listen while my grandmother searched through the boxes she kept all the cards and letters she’d ever received. Too young to remember them, I loved the same stories, over and over again.

My love of my grandparents and her stories didn’t transfer to their actual car. Too big for my college’s tiny mountain streets and the fact I’d only had my license a year, I was as terrified to drive as I knew I’d be, sure it was a matter of time before I mowed someone down. Issue after issue, the yellow Buick and I spent a lot of time getting to know the town’s mechanics. Finally, after a couple of months mostly parked, I called my mother sobbing. Please just take this thing.

On the drive back to my parent’s home, the car’s brakes failed, relinquishing me of my guilt for not wanting the car. It was too much car for me and, truth be told, not something my father wanted sitting in his garage.

Dad sold it for a cent on eBay, back when eBay was new and allowed a person to undo that sort of thing. The man who eventually bought it wrote to say how much he enjoyed how well it drove. It was well cared for, he said.

We tried to keep it, take good care, but the truth is it wasn’t the car we ever wanted, not unless it was back, parked in the garage on Jensen Street.


How Things Continue


When I look at a maze, it reminds me of the brain; and the brain reminds me of the crevices of intestines.  The intestines reminds me of how we all are made.  Inside the “Lab for Anatomical Enlightenment” I saw my first well-dissected highway of intestines pulled out by the end like scarves from a magic hat.  Endless – draining.  Being in human cadaver lab was something as unlikely for me as skydiving, and yet….

Later that same afternoon, I sat in a dark bar with others ordering hamburgers as if nothing happened because that’s how things continue.  We go through the motions of regularity with the living until we believe them again, or forget it was any other way.   Our brain is a magical thing.

I did not know the first time, that I’d have to go back to the lab – but I dreaded it less.  The smell, less intoxicating – the table with dissected appendages almost approachable.   This brain too develops scars, callousing over perceptions with a thin layer of tough, because that’s how things continue.

In 1945 after WWII, my grandmother was displaced from her home in Czechoslovakia – and transported to Germany with her family in a livestock train car.  At the intern camp, with hundreds of others they were stripped, deloused and fed blood sausages waiting for somewhere to live.  She tells me, ‘never look back.’  Because that’s how things continue.

Allison for the PGM


I Cast My Lot

As I step out beneath planets and stars,
Mars and Venus,
the familiar Big Dipper,
and the twinkle, twinkle little pinpricks
of the unnamed millions,
I fill my pockets with diamond dust
and feel the whole world open up—
a cosmic book of poetry
with no beginning and no end,
singing possibilities,
freedom, mystery,
laying down new rhythms and rhymes
in my heart and mind,
bestowing permission from gods
and goddesses of universal love
to be true to myself,
my thoughts, my feelings.

Doubts that have been quashed
for way too many years
rear up like wild ponies,
leave me standing in the spin
of unbridled liberty—
nearly throw me off balance
in the dizzying magnitude
of the uncharted space
they open up.

Then I race to catch up,
rise weightless and soaring
above gravity’s pull,
above small-minded certainty
and the safety of dos and don’ts,
into the vast ambiguity of my place
in the universe—
(as much as one can know such things)
that my place could be any place,
hooked to any one of these stars,
as close as the Milky Way’s beguiling path
or traveling through darkness
beyond nothingness.

As I step out beneath planets and stars,
I recognize my own star stuff,
cut the ropes that bind my wings,
and cast my lot with diamond dust.

                                                 Glenda Breeden (Oct. 2016) for The Poplar Grove Muse

Promise of Hope








The promise of what

is ready to arrive

cocooned in the perfection

of the white tulip.

Future secrets encased in

tightly folded layers

of tender petals.


What is held inside?

We all hope for beauty, for

freshness, for light.

That withheld promise,

transforms the tight bud of the tulip

into hope itself.


The slow unfolding of that

tiny white heart, can be

torturous, so much is riding

on the reveal.


It has to be slow, otherwise,

the sheer beauty of its heart might

be too much. Too stunning.


Some days, I find myself wishing it

would never open. Stay a frozen, icy

bud. Afraid of the darkness it

might hold at its center.



Rebekah Spivey

Winter Retreat



dahlov-ipcar-kalahari-woodland-2010We all can make a list of people who have had positive influences on our lives, and those lists will probably include teachers, relatives, community leaders, authors: we expect these sort of people to have drawn our attention and to have made a difference to others. This week, though, I was reminded of two of the “quiet” people in my life, people whose influence on me could have easily passed unnoticed, even by me, and yet there they were, roaming around in my memory, not ever having left it, and I was a bit taken aback at how strongly I loved them and admired them, one for almost 70 years, the other for almost 60.

Harvey was a boy about 5 years older than me who lived up the street. His dad was some sort of administrator at the clothing factory across from my house, a factory that made those ugly blue women’s gym clothes and summer camp clothes, and where I was asked to model from time to time for the camp owners who were looking for new uniforms for their places. I didn’t know Harvey all that well…, 5 years is a huge age span for young kids. We said “hi” from time to time, but that was about it. When I started the first grade in 1948 (no kindergarten in my village), I walked to school, a distance that would have been about three blocks if Standish had been a city and we had had blocks. The first day, a huge Doberman, owned by a neighbor, escaped from his yard and lunged after me. I was terrified…, at age 6, I was pretty small and this dog was taller than I was. I ran home, chased by the dog, and refused to leave the house. Harvey had been riding his bike by, on his way to school also, and saw what happened. This young boy of about 11 stopped, came to my house, and offered to walk with me to school and keep the dog away. It was a simple gesture on the part of a young boy, a boy who probably wouldn’t have been happy to have to hang out with a little first grader who might cramp his style. And yet he did. There was no complaining, no making fun of my fear: just a kindness, which he extended for several days after that until the dog’s owner fixed the escape route and the dog was no longer a menace to me. It was that simple. And yet, Harvey was my first hero. I never forgot what he did for me. That act of caring about a scared little kid showed me that people can be kind and reliable and unassuming about caring for others. There is no spectacular ending to this part of the story. I had very little contact with Harvey after that. We were of different generations and barely saw one another. However, many years later, at a school reunion, I was able to tell him how strongly I remembered what he had done for me and that he was my first hero. He was still unassuming. We have since become casual Facebook friends, and while I suspect our politics are on different paths, we joke about his heroism and I see his gentle kindness still there, the man he became reflecting the young boy he was.

The second person who played one of these important, if subtle roles in my life was Dahlov Ipcar, a Maine artist who died this week at the age of 99. Dahlov was the mother of a friend of mine when I was an undergraduate. I was married between my junior and senior years of college, and spent the last year living on the Bowdoin campus, being the only wife of a student (it was an all-male college at the time), and commuting to Boston the first semester to finish my own undergraduate work. My husband also had a roommate, because we couldn’t afford two residences. I spent the weekends at Bowdoin, and the whole spring semester there. Our apartment became a home away from home for a few of the Bowdoin guys, and Charlie, Dahlov’s son, was one of the frequent visitors who, with our roommate, Franz, and my husband, sat around and made a lot of music on their guitars and banjos, while I cooked spaghetti and other undergraduate food for the starving young men. Charlie took us out to his parents’ farm from time to time, in a nearby town on the ocean, and that is where I met Dahlov. Dahlov had grown up in a Greenwich Village setting, her parents being well-known artists, and later she and her husband had moved to Maine to farm and for Dahlov to pursue her own art. I was still a small Maine town girl, itching to leave, but, aside from having gone to school in Boston, still learning about the world outside of a small village. On our first trip out to Charlie’s I discovered a world and a woman and a family that showed me something I hadn’t even realized I’d been longing for. It’s difficult to describe, but Dahlov, for me, was Mother Earth. This warm, welcoming woman spent her time between her kitchen with its old fashioned wood-burning stove cooking for anyone who stopped by (and we all began to be regular “stoppers”), and her studio…, her very own room for doing her art, her room built on to the old farmhouse just for her. The farmhouse was full of smells of fresh bread and oil paint, swirling and dancing in our noses, and the bright colors of her art filling our eyes. Her subjects were primarily animals of bright patterns and full of movement. Domestic animals, especially her cats, and wild, jungle animals ran together through thickets of lush vegetation. And Dahlov calmly moved back and forth between these worlds, which were really one world, blended and hypnotic. I loved it, every single bit of it. I had never heard of her before meeting Charlie. I didn’t know she was famous. I only knew I wanted, somehow, to be like this woman…, not be her, but to live in spaces as a whole and complex person that I saw Dahlov to be. I was a young, 21-year-old woman looking for her own way back when not many women had the advantage to see what the possibilities might be, and Dahlov Ipcar opened my heart to what might be. We never talked about this, we never really talked about anything personal, but through Dahlov I discovered a way that a woman could be, that whatever the path I chose, it would be Dahlov, the very fact of her, that in no small way made the choices possible. She remained a part of who I am, a treasure of my life.

When she died this week, I broke down and cried, not something I often do. I had not even seen her in all of these years, although I had seen and been in touch with Charlie. What I do know is that I was only one among many young people whose lives were touched by Dahlov…, the very being of this woman, as I said, the fact of her.

Bev Hartford

Three Stories

“I found a kind of serenity, it no longer seemed important whether everyone loved me or not-more important was to love them. Feeling this way turns your whole life around; living becomes the act of giving.”  ~Beverly Sills

I have started a year of living graciously. I am trying to discover what it means to be a person of ultimate goodwill, and I want to spend my year writing about and trying to discover what it means to be that kind of person. The kind of person Beverly Sills tried to be. I picked a funny time to do this because now, with mounting political crisis and a seeming end to goodwill all over the planet, the very idea of being the kind of person I want to be seems unfathomable. Every day delivers a new blow to my ability to offer grace. Every day offers me a lesson.

True story: A woman I know, who happens to also be Muslim, tells a collective group of mostly white, presumably Christian women that she wants them to invite her to their church. “I’ll bring my three boys and donuts,” she says. “I want all those people to know me and see that we are just like them. I want those people to hide me and my family if it comes to that.”

She is sarcastic and breezy, and we laugh a little but the core of what she is saying chills me to the bone. My friend can envision a USA that includes people going into hiding. My friend can envision a USA that would force naturally born (not that that matters really.) American citizens into hiding to prevent them being rounded up or persecuted. I picture her holding a big box of Dunkin Donuts at the entrance to a local church with her three elementary age boys in tow.

There must be a better way, I think. Do we really expect this woman to serve donuts in our mid-western churches to win over the hearts and minds of Christian America? But really I should be thinking, that going into hiding for Muslim Americans will never happen. Will it? I honor her very real worry. It is all I can do.

True story: In the Kroger parking lot yesterday, I am thwarted a second time while trying to park my car. I am in my car getting ready to turn into a spot when a van comes driving through from the other side. “Really!” I scream in my car. I throw up my hands and drive around to the other side, if I hurry I’ll get the space that the van driver vacated with his van. The driver must have seen me in my in the car moment of exasperation (and dare I say rage) because he stood patiently in the space he vacated waiting for mkrogere. He was saving the space for me.

I felt embarrassed. Thank you I said. He explained that his car had died and he was waiting for a tow truck, and he thought it would be easier to tow from this angle. He had been parked there all night and just now got the opportunity to push it through. I was embarrassed because you know, be more gracious, and try as I might I never quite pass the parking lot test. This sweet man holding me a spot in the Kroger parking lot must have seen me shrieking at him from behind my car wheel. (I think being magnanimous in the Kroger parking lot will be my white whale this year.)

True story: Someone I love very much, I actually hate because of their beliefs. I can’t believe I am even writing these words. I have put this feeling under a microscope and am examining it like crazy. How can I possibly have this year of being gracious if I can’t figure out lesson number one? How can I confront this horrible glorious hatred in myself? How can I be like the light? How can I believe love triumphs, if I can’t control my own hatred? It is the question that vexes me most as I try to make sense of the world in the post truth era. Meanwhile, I have blocked their posts and will erase any comments they make and when they like something I have done, I snarl under my teeth because I know they don’t really, and they are spoiling for a fight.  Or perhaps I am?

It is easy to have compassion for my Muslim friend, to have righteous anger directed at those voters and Kelly Ann and Sean and DT himself. It is an easily learned lesson that any spot is fine in the Kroger parking lot. But I can’t seem to take it further than that. I can’t find it in my heart to understand and really embrace this person I love. It is making my heart hard and my year of living graciously almost impossible.

What is your true story of living graciously in an ungracious world?

Amy for the PGM