The Bean Walkers

The Bean Walkers

Farm kids walked half-mile aisles of soybeans.
Velvet leaves wavered in sultry July breeze.
One side dark green, one side light green.
Trained eyes scrutinized four rows for subtle

shades that marked wayward growth.
Armed with sharp hooks, they carved out
rabble with a stab and slice and left it to die:
thistles, cockleburs, pigweed, mustard. Up

the rows and back, hurrying to finish first,
to sit down, share ice water, begin again.
Few words between brothers or sisters:
sharp commands, some complaints. Plowed

dirt clods crumbled under grimy shoes
as tedium turned up aching muscles, sunburn.
But it was here, far from beginning or end,
that imagination took deep breaths of green

air. While plodding up rows, minds meandered
down forest paths filled with odd characters
who lived worlds apart from rooted order.
A bean field was a magical place for farm kids

who sold their souls for stories that grew
wild as weeds and carried them to far lands,
past wire fences, gravel roads, endless days.
At the field’s far end, they count four rows 

and begin again.

 

 

Originally published in Taproot Literary Review, July 2006

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3 thoughts on “The Bean Walkers

  1. Julia, I like so many different things in this poem that I will have to comment again another time.

    For now, know that I think this is an incredibly accomplished poem -near perfect…and I hardly ever feel that about anyone’s poem. The enjambment in this poem is effective throughout and moves me through the lines and verses in your orchestrated rhythms, not my own that I would have imposed. The line about” sharp complaints, some comands plowed//dirt clods crumble…” Love how the word “plowed” works backwards and forwards.The enjambment of “subtle”…”shades” makes me a beanwalker looking for more subtle shades of “wayward growth” on leaves…of children…and “stories…grown wild as weeds.” What a great line! The poem alternates: simple and intricate, on-and-off, as I walk through it.
    You had to be there to cull these details. Thanks!

    Can’t wait to hear what you are hearing from other visitors.
    ~nancy

  2. Yet another set of memories stirred up… Have had fun with the phrase “walking the beans” over the year with the “town kids” who never seem to have a clue what the phrase meant. They always seemed to conjure up a picture of a person walking with beans. 🙂 I am not sure that today’s farm kids know what the phrase means either since this method for removing weeds from a bean field has been replaced with more efficient methods. Unfortunately for those who haven’t walked up and down bean rows removing weeds with a hoe, they will never know the pleasure of bombing their brother with an airborne corn root bomb. Or, seeing a bobcat or a jack rabbit run through the field. Or feeling the heat and the sweat and learning to remove a layer of the top soil to reach cooler earth below. Or hearing the corn grow in the next field. Never liked walking the beans but it did create some great memories. Thank Julie… -Bruce

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