Asleep on the Farm, a Puzzle in 500 Pieces

Aug 21, 2020

Today’s poem is “Asleep on the Farm, a Puzzle in 500 Pieces” by Richard D’Abate, who grew up in New York City and moved to Maine in 1971.  He lives in Wells and was the director of the Maine Historical Society.  Richard is the author of a book of poems To Keep the House from Falling In (Ithaca House Press) and his poems recently appeared in Agni Magazine. 

He writes, “ [My process is] always pretty much the same: a concrete experiential fact comes with a feeling—an ineffable emotional charge—that points to something else. What that something else is, is never clear and it takes endless tries and versions and drafts…” In “Asleep on the Farm”, it was summertime, and we were actually doing that puzzle at the Jersey shore. The image was so trite and yet absolutely compelling; I couldn’t stop putting it together.  I dreamed of it later as though it were a cosmic fantasy; and then I thought for a long time about the meaning of seams, and then I worked hard on the formal aspects-- meter, stanza, rhyme—to make it do justice to a way I felt about the speaking.”

Asleep on the Farm, a Puzzle in 500 Pieces
by Richard D'Abate

It wasn’t x, like solving an unknown,
that kept us hunched above the kitchen table,
but how each piece, nostalgic for the whole,
became a mother or her resting foal,
beneath an oak, with hollyhocks and chickens.

The hardest part was near the marshy pond
where browns and purples brightened into lilies.
Later—asleep myself—a false alarm:
I dreamt I husbanded this naïve farm,
but careless habits ruined everything. 

By morning swallowtails and bumble bees
were in suspense above the asters, smoky
mountains rolled behind the evergreens,
while, earth to sky, a mystery of seams
expressed the final sadness of the one.

Poem copyright ©2020 by Richard D’Abate.