April 13 Poem: American Idyl (clemency, please)

Today’s device from The Poet’s Dictionary: A Handbook of Prosody and Poetic Devices, by William Packard, is

Idyl [not to be confused with Idyll … or idle … or Idol, for that matter]:  Any pastoral poem, rustic and bucolic, such as an ECLOGUE.  From the Greek, meaning “little picture,” an idyl is usually a short poem showing the joys of rural nature.

Well, Packard lost me when I read the words “short poem.”  I don’t tend to write many of those.  I will offer today a poem from my chapbook, String Quilt, as an idyl.  An earlier version of this poem was originally published in Crucible.  Thanks, as always, for reading!

Old Lessons

In grandchildhood, the life splendid,
the rural grandam taught, when the storm clouds were
piled up, dark and charcoal:

There’s wind a’comin’.

or bright pink as though reflecting roses:

Lightnin’s bad over yonder.

When the leaves in summer are blown hard
to show their silver, not green, side

Hmmph. More rain.

The cows that lie in the dirt under the oaks –
that’s rain too – mostly.

Silly cow – layin’ down and not a cloud in the sky.
Must be nappin’.

Shucking corn, a character builder, teaches why shucks
is an expletive
though the better exclamation would be Silks!

I cannot git the hair off this corn, Mammaw.
Not hair, honey, silks. Keep scrubbin’. Use your brush.

She wouldn’t let on that the rules of berry picking
weren’t steadfast
reciting them in a mock hard voice:

If you don’t pick your share of berries,
you won’t have your share of pie.

Who wants pie?
Plunk in a berry, eat two, chant

Johnny pick’em up
Johnny pick’em up
Johnny pick’em up
In a ol’ tin cup.

She taught of a good night’s sleep,
training children in the fresh air of mountain and holler,
and urging against solving
the mystery of the silver side of leaves
against a pale rosy sky.

Suzanne Baldwin Leitner

6 thoughts on “April 13 Poem: American Idyl (clemency, please)

  1. Dawn

    are we twin grandaughters of different grandmothers? (uh…no, this one’s not a poet.) but love this, and thanks for the memories of summer spent alike, only in a different place.

  2. Suzanne B. Leitner

    Dawn and LoLa – thank you both for reading and commenting. It’s especially sweet to hear from two women whom I know revere their grandmothers and cherish the memories as much as I do. XO.

    1. Suzanne B. Leitner

      My grandmother and I definitely had differences of opinion which were largely cultural and generational, so we exercised caution when discussing certain subjects (or avoided them altogether).

      She was more of a guide than a “boss” when it came to my personal life, if that makes sense, so there was less opportunity for conflict there.

      I think we both kept the right “secrets” from each other (some were revealed at the appropriate time; some were never revealed), and we loved each other very much, which trumped everything else.

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