How we pray

feeding bunnies


Grandpa sat at the round
Dinner table, always
on his sacred southwest side,
where no one but him would sit.
He would hold a brick solid loaf
of dark rye bread against his chest
cradled like a baby almost,
then slice with a knife sharpย toward himself
handing out thick slices to all around the table
like our first communion.
We put our hands together
dipping the earthly richness into the egg
Praying silently

We found her lifeless, limp early morning,
when mother hen got herself caught
on a blade of a rusty old leaf chopper
Holding her baby chicks warm,
we put our hands together
and blow warm breath, and pray silently
Into their still such babyish beaks

Sometimes we would
put our hands together
and scoop icy well water,
splashing our salty faces
praying silently
for summer’s heat to abate,
or pray for the cloud to pass
before the last cut of hay is dry.
Then, we’d take our sadness, jealousies and anger
And even selfish prayers mixed in there too,
Put our hands together
And spread it on potato fields like manure
To fertilize ourselves with richness



About BeeHappee

Where have all the bees gone? Where have all the flowers gone?
This entry was posted in farming, Poetry and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to How we pray

  1. Hariod Brawn says:

    A quite supernal evocation if I may say so, yet grounded within an earthy palpability. Many congratulations on this fine work.

  2. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says:

    I love how prayer is such a part of your daily life. I love all your ways of praying, as your hands and breath put life into the heart of the land. The part about the hen was so so sad! I have to ask – did the babies survive? I often hold birds that fly into the window for a while until the shock subsides and they can fly. I think the warmth helps. Sometimes I blow a little onto their beaks. So special to hold a bird,
    This is such a beautiful poem, I absolutely love it. It is well written and deeply touched my heart. Thank you.

    • BeeHappee says:

      Thank you, Mary. Baby chicks do fine, well these days most of them are raised without the mothers. Grandma hatched and raised them the old fashioned way, allowing the hens do all the work, but sometimes accidents like the would happen. I took over this batch of the chickens as a kid, and grandma joked that they followed me like mother hen all around. I felt like the girl in the film “Flyaway Home” where she raises the geese and then teaches them to fly. Lucky for me, I did not have to teach chickens to fly. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Most little chicks (whether with hens or not) would be lost to area hawks or crows maybe. But that is life.. Today, we visited a farm with 7 baby lambs, one was born just 4 hours before he saw it, mother was still birthing afterbirth. They have warming pads under hay now. But farmer said back int the 1890s (which the farm represents) they did not have that, so on days like tomorrow, 0 F, some lambs would just not survive…
      We used to feed hedgecogs who would wonder over to the farm from woods, and storks. In that photo above, it is me as a kid, feeding my rabbits. I like looking at it now, rabbit houses completely handmade by grandpa, even the netting. Grandma would pluck some rabbit fur and knit it into the woolen mittens, to make the inside part soft and cozy. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says:

        I can see the little girl in that picture followed by a line of chicks. I loved that movie, Fly Away Home!
        Rabbit lined mittens sounds so nice! I love your Grandpa and Grandma stories.
        Awwww! Baby lambs are soooo cute. Little lambs and goats. What a great thing for your children to see. Your kids are so lucky to have you Bee!

      • Joanna says:

        Around here the temperature dips below 0F but the lambs survive. A combination of deep bed litter (hay/straw bedding and manure combine to compost at even low temperatures and provide some heat) and a barn lined with sheep fleeces stuffed between two layers of wood. It is usually the draughts that kill, not so much the temperature.

        • BeeHappee says:

          Sheep fleeces stuffed between two layers of wood for the barn, that is neat, Joanna. I know people were more ingenious, of course, to find ways to keep animals safe for their own sake, since they could not afford to lose any. Manure compost makes sense too, probably works almost like a heating pad? This particular farm where we visit is a government funded public farm, and they follow strict regulations on animal cruelty. On a hot August day we were there at a county fair and they were planning to have horse drawn hay rides, but the temps rose above 90F and they cancelled horse drawn rides. Makes me think, in the past, motivations used to be different yet most folks protected their domesticated animals quite well.
          Draughts kill sheep because of scarcity of food?

  3. smilecalm says:

    my hands find
    a special connection
    to this prayer ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Then, weโ€™d take our sadness, jealousies and anger
    And even selfish prayers mixed in there too,
    Put our hands together
    And spread it on potato fields like manure
    To fertilize ourselves with richness

    excellent, bee

    • BeeHappee says:

      Thank you, sir, I really have to thank you for this one. I had rough vague images of the poem floating in my head for a few days, and then when I read your yellow bean song, it inspired me to commit this one on paper. ๐Ÿ™‚ And our 0F degree temperature right now is making me sit here hugging seed catalog full of color and reminiscing summers past.

  5. NeoNoah says:

    I met my wife in Germany, her mother sliced bread like that, her aporn stained from many times before, Arkansas sun has me praying a lot like you do too, Man, what a magnificent piece of writing. As Ezra Pound would say, poetry works when you see yourself in there.
    Thanks for Hayden Carruth, one more for the bucket list of people that i would love to meet. Funny thing, have recently been checking out Eustace Mullins and he mentions Ezra a lot. Is it coincedence that so much of our stuff is “tangled up in blue”, but a good blue?

    • BeeHappee says:

      Thanks so much, Noah! Yes, indeed. For some patriarchial reason I suppose the man of the house was supposed to slice bread in Lithuania if he was there. Or maybe just for the plain reason that the bread used to be quite hard and difficult to slice. There was some sacredness around it before the bread slicing machines at Panera bread came around. ๐Ÿ™‚ My grandma also had those aprons, with unrecognizable patterns splattered with grease and stained with soot.
      Interesting about Eustace Mullins. I listened to a lot of his recordings back in the day. In fact, we had phone calls with Mr. Mullins from this household before he passed away, incredibly intelligent gentleman. I would like to go read a bit more of Ezra Pound.

  6. I was raised with pretty much the same image, only it was my grandma slicing the bread; even 0.5cm thick slices. But before she would even start slicing a new bread, she always made a cross on the bottom with the edge on the knife. Never caught her missing doing that.
    And when we would get to the bottom of a jar of jam, we would tear up such a slice, put it into the jar, stir it around with a fork to get every bit of jam out of the jar and eat it. A real treat!!
    Weird how some memories are embedded into one’s brain, huh.

    • BeeHappee says:

      That is interesting about the cross. I had not seen that done, wonder if it is a Dutch thing. Yes, you are right, we would use the bread as a sponge for the last jam, or the last bacon grease in a pan, not wasting anything, and those were last little bits. ๐Ÿ™‚ I am glad you can dig up those warming memories sometimes too. Looking forward to your stories and photos on your renewed blog. If the weather cooperates, we may see some more snow and husky races this coming weekend too.
      P.S. Just read people saying that Austrians, French, Hungarians, and Romanians – at least – also cut crosses on the bottom of the bread before slicing.

      • She didn’t cut, just scratch or rub, y’know. And there was quite a strict defined border between the catholic south and the protestant/reformed rest of the country, so no “Dutch” thing.
        And those grease”dips”… Water starts running in my mouth already. And the problem is that I never get that fat as good as it was back then. There simply is no equivalent spice or herb for childhood memory, huh.

        • BeeHappee says:

          Yes, you are right, someone should patent the “childhood spice”. ๐Ÿ™‚ That makes a good poem right there. I ate the dark Lithuanian bread on my b-day so it brought back all the bread memories. My favorite at my grandmas was the breakfast. She’d be up at 4 am doing chores and making fire, and by the time we were up, th ehouse smelled like fire, cooking soup pots for lunch, and breakfasts, eggs or pancakes. The best was when she would make large crapes (on lard), then she would make full cast iron skillet of sunny side-up eggs with bacon, and we would roll up the crapes and dip them into egg yolks and bacon grease. And of course, she would even add some cream into the grease, and it would make it even sweeter. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • shoreacres says:

        And so did my Swedish grandmother.

  7. shoreacres says:

    What I found most interesting in your poem is the thought that ever our “sadness, jealousies and anger” can be useful and productive. Of course, like orange peelings, coffee grounds, and veggie trimmings, they need to be composted, first.

    I dallied commenting because I was looking for this photo.. It’s my mother and her little sister on their grandparents’ farm. It would have been taken about 1923. Mom was born in 1918, and she looks to be about five: give or take a year either way. She would have loved your photo.

    • BeeHappee says:

      Thank you, Linda! I am glad I made you go through all that and dig up that photo, hehe. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll post my chicken one sometimes soon. Great quality of the photo considering almost 100 years! My aunt sent me a stack of family photos for my b-day, best present, so I was browsing through all of them. Very little was captured then, since photo cameras was something very few had or knew how to use.
      Yes, composting the jealousies, sadness and anger, true. In fact, I like Joanna’s pointing out above, how compost gives out the heat, so I was thinking about the composting of all those ego callings and how much warmth the compost produces. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Have a great composting weekend. We are hitting the ice. Little ones got their skates, now cannot peel them off. ๐Ÿ™‚

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