Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Mother's Land

by Rachel J. Fenton

My father tilled the land
bought by my grandmother
in early March, I heard
from my bedroom the familiar

cut of loy and turn, then the fork
breaking up clods, tossing
them into the air like a great
moldewarp over his donkey

jacketed shoulder teasing
roots doing their best to look
alive: all clinging to the grim
end. And perching like a rook

on the sill, the smell of mould
and wood like an old woollen
glove up my nose, I'd see thrown
onto a heap last year's stems:

nettles the lot of them. Later,
he used a rotavator more
audibly to demonstrate slaughter
of earth; flicking a startled mole

as if to outer space; expanse
as its interior simultaneously collapsed.
Six hours it clung to trembling existence
with its billhook hands; it mattered

little that we only found five
worms to counter the knowledge that
it needed, in order to survive,
soil spaghetti in excess of its own weight.

We left it in the galvanised tin crate,
the nearest to a fortress we could make,
hoping to pick over the bones
in a month or so, but these too had gone

on the heap with all the other stalks
and critters that settled in the wrong
place. Come June, the lump-locked
drills were fine tilled and looking

up the shirts of brassicas, wind blowing
through carrot hair and in between, row
upon row of nettles: only growing
on fertile land. With the whorl

of motivated chickens a soundtrack,
I'd watch as my father plucked
the nettles from their plot
and dragged them out with bare hands.


  1. Beautifully written and so evocative. I seem to hear echoes of Seamus Heaney.

  2. Thank you, Dave - that's a wonderful compliment.

  3. Lovely well crafted poem ---great use of words.

  4. Thank you, Angela. Sorry it's taken me so long to find your comment - I do appreciate it.