I picked up a copy of Working the Dirt at the library and was immediately drawn to this poem by Marcia Camp. After all, summertime and Farmer’s Markets go hand-in-hand, right?
It isn’t okra cut small and tender the way
we know it should be, or
tomatoes whose imperfections declare them
peas bursting from their purple hulls
(their remembered anthem sung on summer-
“Peas…”with soft refrain, “already shelled”)—
we come for none of these, though we ask the
price at each tailgate.
We’re here to see hardy faces (our parents and
grandparents with different features)
smile a warranty on produce knowing hands and
bent backs coaxed to life.
We tender crisp dollar bills, drop quarters
into calloused palms and
For we need to hear the vernacular of hill,
prairie and delta in
words carefully weeded from our city talk;
have our nostrils sting from manure on boots,
smell musk of frying bacon lingering in work shirts.
Only here can we feel Dallis grass switch our ankles,
blackberry briers claw our legs,
hear the night call of the whippoorwill,
see its red eye pierce the dark, and
know that we did not dream childhood.
– Marcia Camp, “Working the Dirt, An Anthology of Southern Poets”
My favorite line? “For we need to hear the vernacular of hill, prairie and delta in words carefully weeded from our city talk.” Rich.
Do you have a fave?