a journal of...

A journal among friends...
art, words, home, people and places

Friday, December 18, 2020

The poetry of cotton

 On the nowhere road between home and office, those 18 years I lived in the Eastern part of the state, this time of year the fields flatten and turn to short-haired flax, much like the farmers driving their loads along the highway next to me.   Along the road, the cotton workers go about their work, hatted and gloved, darker and more serious as they gather the seed-specked balls in combine-waves across the landscape.  Trip by trip, I must have absorbed that common scene until years later it has impressed itself indelibly in memory.

Cotton field, Eastern NC

But it is Laura Frankstone's Instagram photo of her painting, yesterday's "warm-up" (as she calls it), which brings that vision back to me.

Cotton, Laura Frankstone

I'm glad of it, not only for the spark of memory, but also for the inspiration to poetry again, something  I find suddenly re-surfacing over this past month.

This morning, her dancing cotton balls inspired not only the vision, but also a poem, not something I have been doing regularly, though occasions, like holiday cards and once in a while a commemorative birthday, will bring me to verse again.

Cotton, in its various envisionings, has been a sort of opening of the field, to borrow Robert Duncan's phrase. Laura has been writing about the slow work of getting back to art after a long time of personal trials and removals, and her days finally in her new studio,"warming up" again to the field of making.  Whether, like her, there is now a new, big bright space to work in, or like me at this small table before a window which looks out, just as brightly, to garden beauty, insights come from all the windows we look out of.

And now, the renewed impulse to poetry is here...flaxen, flat enough to invite words for themselves, in the patterns, sounds, rhythms, images and gyrations down the page toward meaning...mine, yours, anybody's.  And in ink.  Though these posts and some letters are written straight onto this laptop, more personal things, like poems and other letters, journals and art, come out from the nib of a pen. I've always done that, draft after draft until it begs to be put into print...if it ever does. 

This time, interestingly, so did the first drafting of this post, on the nearest paper and pen I could grab...a sketch pad I keep by the side of the sofa for Alexander and me.

Here's the poem, which, as you see, begins the way this post does.  The poetic line came first.


On the nowhere road between home and town

the fields flatten and turn to flax...cotton, soy, and tobacco

succumbing to the fall reapers.


Cotton is the last crop in, being the less sensitive to chill.

Here, bent workers, hatted and gloved, still glean,

while combine harvesters lumber toward the field's

edge where, like sheep herded and branded, the white

brick giants await their transformation.  For now,

cotton is king and queen again; for now, from field to market, 

it reigns.


At home, I lay my gathered bolls to rest while I consider 

their meaning; there lies the path into their world. 

What they become, finally, out in the world, or in my

hands, they (and I) wait to discover.

If only, I think, we stopped to glean more leavings, how much

richer our visions, our understanding, our love.

                                                            r            12 .17 .2020

1 comment: