Friday, August 30, 2013

Poetry Friday: "His mind holds summer...."

Farm Boy: 1940 by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration

We all know that when August ends, summer ends, no matter what the official last day of the season, and no matter how hot the weather. The word "September" is not a summer word, it's a First-Day-of-School word. So, in honor of  tomorrow, August 31, I offer up this after-summer poem by Robert Francis:

Farm Boy After Summer

A seated statue of himself he seems.
A bronze slowness becomes him. Patently
The page he contemplates he doesn't see.

The lesson, the long lesson, has been summer.
His mind holds summer, as his skin holds sun.
For once the homework, all of it, was done.

What were the crops, where were the fiery fields
Where for so many days so many hours
The sun assaulted him with glittering showers.

Expect a certain absence in his presence.
Expect all winter long a summer scholar,
For scarcely all its snows can cool that color.

Kentucky schoolhouse, 1940 - photo by Mary Post Wolcott for the FSA
Of course, there's no better way to end summer than by going to a county fair - ours is usually the Island Country Fair out on Whidbey Island or the Northwest Washington Fair in Whatcom County. You get to say goodbye to summer in one dusty, exhausting, glorious visit, taking in things like this:

 The rooster crowing contest...

 and the newborn piglets... 

  the prize-winning peaches...

and pickles...

 and the ferris wheel...

the kids' collections...

and the kids's art...

the blue-ribbon quilts...

and the milk cows....
the corn on the cob and...

...the corn dogs and funnel cakes.

I'm a true admirer of the 4-H kids and Future Farmers of America who have led their animals (after hosing them down and prettying them up) around the judging rings over the years in hopes of praise from the judges.  And I love it when a kid steps forward in the goat barn to tell me all about how to make goat cheese. I hold the thought of that kid for a long time, well into colder weather.

It's true, my mind "holds summer" and my "skin holds sun." I get serious in autumn, which as Northrup Frye theorized, is the season of tragedy. And I can get through winter in a good mood, usually, with satire to help me.  At least, until about February - by then, the rain and the gray days make me begin to fantasize about primroses, and way off the sound of carny music on the midway and the smell of kettle corn.  Then comes spring, and the primroses, and who doesn't love spring? But summer....the season of full belief...? Can you do anything but love it? It comes out of the blue and bowls you over. And when it's gone, your skin holds it.
"...for scarcely all it snows can cool that color."

The Poetry Friday round-up this week is being hosted by Tara at A Teaching Life. Head there to see what other people have posted.  And if you have time, catch this video from the New York Time Frugal Traveler, all about the Kandiyohi County Fair in Minnesota.


  1. "His mind holds summer, as his skin holds sun."

    That was my favorite line, too! Thanks for sharing it this Friday before Labor Day.

  2. Whenever I think of summer, I immediately think of Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine and those new tennis shoes. Thank you for giving me another lovely vision of summer - one that I hope would remain with me too. :) I love how the photographs enhance those carefully-crafted lines.

  3. What a perfect post for the end of summer. Love the poem (new to me) and photos. The "absence in his presence" says it all.

  4. "His mind holds summer, as his skin holds sun" was my favorite line too. I like how you adopted it and incorporated those ideas into your own beautifully-written post! Wonderful accompanying photographs too.

  5. Who doesn't love a country fair? Thanks for sharing the photos and the poem. I'll miss being "assualted...with glittering showers."

  6. I can hardly wait for the "Big E". I appreciated seeing your photos, but they're making it harder to wait!

  7. Diane, I checked out the website for The Big E and it says "17 Days of Pure Joy!" That sounds about right!! (and hey, The Beach Boys on the 29th...

  8. Sigh. Goodbye Summer, and hello to the long haul of the months that will take us back there again next year!

  9. Wonderful poem! "For once the homework, all of it, was done." :-)