"Thoreau's Beans"

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.

.

David Roderick lives in Greensboro, N.C. He is the author of Blue Colonial.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories on the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.