"Thoreau's Beans"

"Thoreau's Beans"

"Thoreau's Beans"

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A weekly poem, read by the author.
Oct. 27 2009 7:04 AM

"Thoreau's Beans"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear  David Roderick read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

Here's the human that exists,
his hunger grasping how to cultivate,
then gorge, and now he wakes

inside the dead-mule smell
of lilac around his cottage,
and now he wrestles with roots


in the sun, struggling,
as a husband, with the harness,
and while lancing blisters

he remembers the view
from Ktaadn, how a cloud soaked
him on its upper slope—no brother

but the self, and he returns,
meek among the asphodel,
even more determined

that his crop will thrive,
becoming almost desperate
for long pails of water


while beneath him is what
he summons: brute feet,
his hands smelling like leeks—

in a notebook this is his thrift
and estate: the stems
weakened until he finds them

cow chips, which he must
have felt for in the dark
but never wrote about stealing

from his neighbors' fields,
and now he sees himself,
without the pond's reflection,

for what he is, a failed guide,
since what's fleeting can't be
guarded: colors of badgers,

the sober points of wrens,
so few words, outlined,
whipped from their oily wings.