Twice Before

Jul 21, 2017

Today’s poem is "Twice Before" by Russell Libby. Russell lived a little more than half his life on Three Sisters Farm in Mount Vernon, Maine.

In 1983 he moved to the small, organic farm where he and his wife raised three daughters and tended their weedy gardens and flocks of sheep and hens. Russell enjoyed wandering the woods in the neighborhood, observing the songbirds and the health and growth of the woods. He especially loved ash and maple and birch, and kept track of particular trees over the years.

He worked at Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association for many years, and through that organization he was able to work with others to strengthen their commitment to many environmental issues. He died in 2012 at the age of 56.

Twice Before
by Russell Libby

We don’t know what the land looked like, twice before.
Once before it was settled.
Once, when it was. There are only hints:
     tall pines near the lake;
     a sugar maple stub eleven feet around, on a Stevens/Currier/Corryell stone wall;
stone walls crisscrossing through woods.

The southeast corner of our farm was the ‘Stevens pasture’
for a half century,
growing cows,
before growing two foot thick pine.
Poplar followed stumps,
then were broken by inch-thick ice.

Francis Gordon’s prime field, after a century of rock-picking,
has stone walls six feet across.
Outside, stone piles are topped by sugar maples,
now ready to tap.
Inside, white pine are crowded together, seventy feet tall.

Of ten fields cleared by the Rordons during the 1800s,
small parts of five are open still.
Standing at the margin,
I’m pulled between visions of many small fields
feeding our family and others,
and tall trees reaching for the sky.

Time works in favor of trees.

Russell Libby from Balance A Late Pastoral
Blackberry Books 2007