A Psalm for Life

by Anne Maren-Hogan

At the head of the table my father
performed Longfellow’s Psalm,
shedding tears. Be not like dumb,
driven cattle. Be a hero in the strife.

Proud of his school assignment.
Memorized. A couple of stanzas
in, he steeped in the emotion
buried in the lines.

Sundays, sitting around, he’d
talk of his mother, a saint, then
tear up. He made up for her lack
of tears, all those years after
her babies died.

Feelings so close to his skin’s surface,
they began dripping in the quiet spaces,
when he finished running the tractor,
feeding the hogs.

We stood stock-still, fascinated
with our father’s tears, wondering
what to do, no memory of a hug
or a kiss on our foreheads.

Strangely comforting and bewildering,
we knew we were witness to a deep
affection for his mother, poetry, the land
but why tears?

Coming from a prenatal visit
I begin to cry. My four-year-old
searches my face, craving
words. Mommy, are those sad tears
or happy tears?

Anne Maren-Hogan, a poet-gardener, relishes farm life with her husband in the South Toe Valley beneath Mt. Mitchell. Her childhood on an Iowa farm, which her family still farms, provides material for her poetry, as deep and rich as the black earth from which she comes. Anne began writing poetry after raising children and gives credit to her writing group for their edits and insight. Her first chapbook, The Farmer’s Wake, was published by Finishing Line Press. Her second chapbook, Laying the Past in the Light, recently published by Longleaf Press, looks at the mystery of death and resurgent power of landscape.