The Abandoned Farm


Since 1817, Earl Cameron's family farm

stood on a craggy windswept hillside.

Blossoms perfumed the air as swarms of bees

buzzed around ancient locust trees

standing like sentinels around the house.

Branches with broken arms cast shadows,

hovering ghosts in a Goya painting.


Barn doors creaked in the wind,

a pinion about to shear off its hinge,

a sliver of morning sunlight exposed

a litter of pink newborn mice

ensconced on a moldy bale of hay

blindly competing for mother's milk.

On a barn floor carpeted in dried cow dung,

deserted stanchions stand witness

to the herd of Holsteins that once squirted

gallons each morning, pinging into steel pails,

cooled in the milk house ice tub where

a tattered health inspection and Betty Grable calendar

are now all that remain.


The dump in the ravine a lasting testimony

to how the Camerons wrestled

with the inexorable rocky landscape.

Mounds of bottles of cheap whiskey and beer:

Four Roses, Carstairs and Schenleys,

Rupperts and Rheingold for hot summer days.

Prisoners of bank loans, paying interest on interest

they created a graveyard in the field:

Rusted tractors, harrows, rakes and ploughs.


Where bread was baked and butter churned each day,

homemade ice cream and sarsaparilla served on Sundays,

now spiders spin webs in silence.

Hand-blown windows cracked,

chimney drooping sideways,

springs sprung on the hired man's couch,

double-seat outhouse sweetened with lime

now tumbled down.

Water in the cistern green with algae,

leathers in the pump long since dried.


Perennials still bloom in the neglected garden, but

skunks have eaten all the petunias,

pigsty strangled by overhead vines,

a motel for raccoons and opossums.

Mealy apples fall from un-pruned orchards,

a feast for deer and wild turkeys.

Mulberry tree stooped like a scoliotic old lady,

crows scare away starlings and hog all the berries.


Earl was buried in his one and only suit.

Tolerated lumbago but catarrh did him in.

Agro-biz grows all the food, developers bought the land

sprouting modular condos instead of sunflowers.


Milton P. Ehrlich