A Summer Poem

In an instant, this poem brings me back to a hot day summer day in the kitchen and garden of my childhood home.

Do you have a poem that transports you back to a time or place?

I stuck this poem in my dad’s Father’s Day card this year, though I’m not even sure if he holds the same memory of my mom preparing iced-water in the kitchen and asking me to deliver it to him in the garden, where he’d be dripping in sweat, as if he’d just taken a shower, but worked through the heat, anyway, because that’s my dad, and the ice melting quickly to shards, and the bumpy blue and white calico dish towel soaked in cold water to help him stay cool.

All I know is that thanks to the images and felt senses shared by the poet, my body remembers how I observed my dad work tirelessly in his enormous garden, summer after summer. I saw his work ethic. His passion. His drive. How he mastered and tamed that garden. How he, I imagine, made it his sanctuary, his temple. 

There are also darker feelings, and the sensation of contraction in my body as shame, or maybe its regret, arise when I remember the resentment my siblings and I held toward my dad for his strictness around our summer chores -- those non-negotiable hot hours of weeding, de-rocking the soil, watering, and picking to be done before playing with friends.

And just behind the shame/regret/resentment/contraction is a sort of freedom in allowing all of it to be there -- the young girl bringing water to her laboring father, carefully observing him and his ways; the petulant, unseen teenager who gets to have her resentment  -- she's a teen, for crying out loud -- no shame or regret necessary; the woman writing this piece, touched by a poet's remembering of a moment, freezing it for us, and taking the time to describe and share it, which opens in me a deep warmth for my complex, mysterious father -- and the girl who brought him water.

All this to say, how magical are a poet's words, (and our words) -- how potent are stories -- to remind us that we experience life through our bodies.

"Carrying Water to the Field"
~Joyce Sutphen

And on those hot afternoons in July,
when my father was out on the tractor
cultivating rows of corn, my mother
would send us out with a Mason jar
filled with ice and water, a dish towel
wrapped around it for insulation.
Like a rocket launched to an orbiting
planet, we would cut across the fields
in a trajectory calculated to intercept—
or, perhaps, even—surprise him
in his absorption with the row and the
turning always over earth beneath the blade.
He would look up and see us, throttle
down, stop, and step from the tractor
with the grace of a cowboy dismounting
his horse, and receive gratefully the jar
of water, ice cubes now melted into tiny
shards, drinking it down in a single gulp,
while we watched, mission accomplished.

With love,

Want to write?
Take a pen & prompt journey:

writing prompt

shards of ice

Grab a pen & notebook. Write the prompt at the top of the page. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Or 5. Or 2!

Keep your pen moving as you write the thoughts, feelings, and images that arise in the moment. What senses and sensations do you notice? Don’t stop to think or edit.

Accept ALL that you write - the pretty & ugly; absurd & boring. Discover what wants to be felt, known, expressed, released...