A Poem and A Photograph

A poem by U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser from Flying at Night.

Abandoned Farmhouse

He was a big man, says the size of his shoes
on a pile of broken dishes by the house;
a tall man too, says the length of the bed
in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man,
says the Bible with a broken back
on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
but not a man for farming, say the fields
cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.

A women lived with him, says the bedroom wall
papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves
covered with oilcloth, and they had a child,
says the sandbox made from a tractor tire.
Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves
and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole.
And the winters cold, say the narrow country road.

Something went wrong, says the empty house
in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields
say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars
in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste.
And the child? Its toys are strewn in the yard
like branches after a storm–a rubber cow,
a rusty tractor with a broken plow,
a doll in overalls. Something went very wrong, they say.

A picture from Gone: Photographs of Abandonment on the High Plains by Steve Fitch.

A kitchen in an abandoned farm house near Regent, western North Dakota.

2 Responses to “A Poem and A Photograph”

  1. 10th grade English class
    April 22nd, 2008 08:20

    We think the wife went crazy because the man was so unhappy.

    Is it possible that the man killed the child?

  2. jeff (Poetry World)
    February 19th, 2009 07:57

    Thank you for such a great poem. I have learned a lot by reading on this website

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