Poetry from Marjorie Thelen

 Poetry on a Rural Theme:
 Living in the Middle of Nowhere & Wondering Why
 by Marjorie Thelen
 The Ditch Witch Blues 
 after helping John again
 with some impossible task
 in her estimation
 this time trying to load 
 a 600 pound piece of equipment
 a ditch witch
 its big wheels 
 spinning in the mud
 onto a trailer covered with snow
 that fell overnight, predicted
 that the ditch witch slid off of the first time
 nearly smashing into John
 she's thinking a modest apartment
 with an alley view
 in a liberal, progressive community, 
 cultural venues by the boatload, 
 surrounded by people who have been in therapy
 no concern about running out of water
 or neighbors shooting at the devil
 or rabid extremists
 or fulminating fundamentalists
 is beginning to look appealing
 her country gal era may be over
 oh, she's singing the ditch witch blues
 yes, she's crying the ditch witch blues
 time might be right to hit the road tonight
 because she's singing the ditch witch blues
 the silence is nice
 mountain views spectacular
 you can see the stars
 John has plenty of space for his treasures
 the roads are abominable
 the dust never ends
 and there's the water problem
 oh, she's singing the ditch witch blues
 yes, she's crying the ditch witch blues
 time might be right to hit the road tonight
 because she's singing the ditch witch blues
 Damn Coyotes
 I can't believe she left the radio blaring again.
 She thinks it keeps the coyotes away.
 Well, I can't sleep.
 Stop complaining. The treat bowl in the morning makes it all worthwhile.
 It was skimpy this morning. 
 Oh, shut up. Quit complaining. I hear she's going to butcher this fall. 
 You might be on the list. I notice you aren't laying like you used to.
 Ha, neither are you. God, I hate NPR. You'd think she'd at least put on the country and western station. 
 Little blind duck
 Little blind duck
 bumps into doors and fences
 but knows the way to the pond
 if John's fire truck isn't in the way
 Scarlett is her name
 old Indian runner duck
 now covered with mostly
 white feathers that used to be black
 Her favorite foods are tomatoes,
 watermelon, and cooked pumpkin
 she has one duck friend left
 a short, squat mallard
 who sometimes looks out for her
 sometimes not
 A turkey gobbler mistook her 
 for a turkey hen
 insisted on humping her
 squashing her into the ground
 and bloodying her head
 he went into the freezer
 Then the two hen turkeys did the same
 bloodying Scarlett’s head again
 which caused her blindness
 they went into the freezer, too
 Moral of the story:  be careful who you hump
 how can you eat your pet?
 because we raised him
 because he got back rubs every day
 because he got orange peels, corn cobs, and cabbage treats
 because he had girl friends
 because he grazed green pastures, ate alfalfa
 because he had nice shade to chew his cud
 we nourished him
 he nourishes us
 we wouldn’t do it again
 Purple Potatoes
 We could make a potato dish
 to take to the potluck
 like potato salad or casserole 
 that would be easy
 I don't think the guys 
 would like purple potatoes
 are you embarrassed
 to take something that 
 has been grown in our garden
 organic, local, non-GMO?
 no, no, it's not that
 it's just that the guys around here 
 aren't used to purple potatoes
 Shooting at the Devil
 the devil flies around the sagebrush at night
 the neighbor shouts back
 and orders him to go away
 the trouble started 
 when the new people moved in
 when the neighbor comes home 
 stuff is moved around
 they hexed the place
 they grind up animals and
 throw them raw against her house
 she called out the sheriff twice
 he was no help
 so she shoots at the devil instead
 scaring the neighbors to death
 Obituary Notice for the Oregon Frontier
 Burns and Hines 
 old frontier towns in southeast Oregon, 
 died a slow, agonizing death 
 after refusing to acknowledge climate change
 and that they were using water
 faster than it came into the basin. 
 The residents of Harney County 
 were among other rural Oregon communities 
 that launched a sustained effort 
 to defeat every carbon emission reduction bill 
 that came before the legislature,
 that squelched every voice that said
 the way they used water
 was unsustainable.
 Well, they got their way. 
 They kept their diesel farm equipment 
 and old gas hog trucks. 
 They kept their methane-producing cows. 
 They kept their water devouring pivots. 
 They watched the Harney Basin Aquifer dry up. 
 They scratched their head when their domestic wells went dry 
 and their cows died for lack of water. 
 No water. 
 No alfalfa. 
 No cows.
 No way to live. 
 You drive through two ghost towns today. 
 Front doors stand open 
 on long deserted homes. 
 Grass grows 
 through the pavement of the main streets. 
 Traffic lights hang dead, unblinking. 
 Tumbleweed is the only thing moving. 
 No one home. 
 But they won all those battles 
 to keep fossil fuels cheap 
 and polluting their environment. 
 They won the battle 
 to keep their center pivots operating 
 and guzzling water. 
 But they didn't win the battle 
 to preserve their way of life.
 One Hundred Feet Down
 are snail shells
 under layers
 and layers
 of black sand
 of an old lake
 millions of
 years ago
 then clay rock
 and then clear water at last 
 at 220 feet
 how old is that
 water we drink?
 how long has it been 
 down there?
 are we drinking ancient swamp water?
 what have we disturbed 
 with our modern technology?
 maybe three toed horses
 will coming galloping out of the well
 or ancient rhinoceroses
 or gigantic cockroaches
 The only evidence
 I have
 of ancient life
 from our newly drilled well
 are tiny snail shells
 that were sleeping, undisturbed
 one hundred feet down
 on the road from Burns to Bend
 Glass Butte rises to the south, full of obsidian
 that oozed up and hardened into beautiful black glass
 millions of years ago
 between Hampton and Bend south of the highway
 lies the Brothers fault swarm
 that runs southeast to northwest across Oregon
 patiently waiting to move again
 to the west rise the Sisters, Newberry Crater, Mt. Bachelor
 Mt. Jackson, the resplendent Cascade volcanoes
 to the north across the Columbia River
 lie Mt. Rainer and Mt. St. Helens
 sleeping, waiting
 even further west 80 miles off the coast 
 lies the Juan de Fuca fault which last moved
 January 26, 1700 about 9:00 P.M. 
 a 9.0 on the Richter scale
 crating a tsunami
 that left dead cedar trees still standing
 on the banks of the Copalis River in Washington
 and waves recorded in Japan
 the Juan de Fuca plate gets unstuck
 on average every 243 year
 we think we have problems now
 We average 80 years here on planet Earth
 from baby to elementary to high school
 maybe college, maybe marriage, maybe kids
 then old age and we're done
 80 years
 The earth is 4.54 billion years old
 we are gnats on the back of time

7 thoughts on “Poetry from Marjorie Thelen

  1. The span of the place is grandly geologic like a wide and deep mystery. The hydrologic cycle is askew. An eccentric neighbor is armed. Chickens want Country not NPR. The “Middle of Nowhere” is strange and endearing.

  2. Mr. Croft, I must reveal that my friend Marjorie is, herself, strange and endearing. Her books range from sci-fi to mysteries, and she plays the accordion, too. Sometimes she still covets that apartment with the alley view, but then she looks at the sky out here….

  3. Ms Marsh, thanks for that insight. Surely she is a great friend to have. A skillful writer as she demonstrates here — and I bet she plays the accordion well, too.

  4. Marjorie’s poems have a clear voice and a casual twist that is like a secret surprise. Really enjoyed reading these. She is a sensitive explorer of her rural life.

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