Broken Hallelujah (and other poems)

Broken Hallelujah

I walk beneath a sky full of holes,
 	among brittle stalks in the field,
 		trees raining leaves like tongues of fire.
Praise in minor keys rises from the plains,
 	my home in wind, each face,
 		each eave, a new octave.
The twinkling distant farmhouse
 	flickers life in the night
 		when the ransacking bandit plunders cat food,
 		when the feral dog drags my hen 
 			home to her ravenous pups,
 				night owls call, respond.
A wandering stream scores 
 	the pasture in ragged hoof-print hieroglyphics.
Shadows loom in the gloaming, true trunk of pear,
 	arthritic magnolia,
 		dry-eyed susans, shrunken bodies of clover, 
 			milkweed, thistle. 
The huffing wind seals rain 
 	beneath a crisp skin of ice
 		sends chickens burrowing into their deep down.
I stumble upon the altar of an ancient steel plow 
 	left last century, in the wood where it collapsed, 
 		returning bit by rusty bit to its beginning.
 			cruel mercy, unrelenting, 
amen & again.

Rural Missive

up on the old highway
near the curve that veers south
at the top of a hill 
sits a farmhouse
where a widower lives
next to a graveyard
back off the road
behind a wooden gate,
a gate that swings wide 
on a hinge, through which
a pasture rolls towards listing
granite markers gathered
at the end of wheel ruts
harbored beneath the oaks.

 	 	along that worn path 
an ancient tree drapes weary arms 
low branches spread wide,
heavy on the ground, 
next to the graveyard where 
a widower lives among barns & bins
chock with plows, combines,
tools to plant and harvest 
each year’s crop, to husband
a small herd of cattle penned
out back, behind wire panels, 
steel tube gates bought
from the guy who canvases
these parts in summer, his large 
flatbed truck piled with red steel, 
all sizes, peddled to farmers
because buying a gate off a guy
is easier than hauling one from town. 

 	 	through his gate the farmer 
drives a row-crop with a 3-point hitch
to impale round bales of clover
and prairie grass planted, mowed 
raked and baled from the pasture 
that fronts the graveyard with the closed
white gate out by the road,
the road that curves at the top of the hill 
where an old widower makes his life
wife and kids now gone 
(Olathe, Atlanta, Raleigh, the grave). 

 		the hay is for a feedlot full 
of cattle, stuck in January mud, heavy heifers, 
girls he calls them, with their yearlings, 
who’ve trampled the hay, shat
indiscriminately, piss brewing
a rain and snow-soup muck the cows
don’t seem to mind. the farmer hauls 
another ton of hay to the lot 
where the girls ruminate, circle cud 
over flat wide teeth, process
of process and elimination, spoiling
their food as they ruin each bale
and the farmer heaves another 
onto the growing pile of excrement and mud 
in the middle of a lot behind an old farmhouse 
in the dead of winter where a low white sky
hovers over fallow fields 
stretches to horizon, under a gray sun,
that makes no heat. 

 		I pass the farmhouse 
where cows stand like cutouts jammed in mud,
one lone steer from last spring’s 
calving stands atop the waste mountain
head and shoulders above the others, 
unchallenged, still-life, as if snapshot, 
as if having just arrived the moment I drive again 
past the old farmhouse up on the highway, 
near the pasture that fronts an old graveyard 
where etched in listing tombstones 
are the names of nobody I know.

A Galaxy of Silence

the song of the wood thrush
trilling hidden among the trees, falls silent

season’s last clutch 
of swallows & phoebes fledges
indistinct into the blue. 

spring’s last blossom falls 
spent. earth leans into
its slow aft tilt, sun slipping
low off her shoulder. 

goldenrod, nodding onion huff
their slow exhale. 

the last monarch 
unfurls her wings uplifted
as arms, flutters, disappears. 

last sip before hummingbirds 
wing it south. 

		purple harvest moon spills
lamplight down the long gravel
road, shimmering over an ocean of grain
to here where you remain
only leaving on your mind.


  • Cyn Kitchen is an associate professor of English at Knox College where she teaches creative writing and literature. She is the author of Ten Tongues, a collection of short stories. She also writes poems and nonfiction, some of which appear in Fourth River, Poetry South, American Writers Review, and Poetry Quarterly. Cyn makes her home in Forgottonia, a downstate region on the Illinois prairie.

  • Stills from Sunset Boulevard, 1950, directed by Billy Wilder and starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden. Director of Photography: John F. Seitz. Production Design: Hans Dreier & John Meehan. Costume Design: Edith Head