EVERYTHING BARREN WILL BE BLESSED by Don Thompson, Kern County Poet Laureate
Story by Portia Choi
Poets and friends gathered to celebrate National Poetry Month at Dagny’s Coffee on April 1, 2017. They celebrated by discussing poems in a book by Don Thompson, the first Poet Laureate of Kern County. The book is Everything Barren Will be Blessed.
Annis Cassells, Tim Chang, Portia Choi and Mona Sidhu each selected a poem from the book. Then the poems were read aloud to the whole group, once by each individual, for a total of four times per poem.
With each re-reading, there was new understanding, feeling or image perceived from the poem. There seemed to be continuing communication between the poet and the reader with each reading.
One of the poems discussed was “Tumbleweed.” There was greater understanding of the poem as each person read the poem. There was appreciation of the unique way that Thompson perceived his surroundings. The last two lines of the poem is, “as if pulling the wind behind them/ caught on thousands of tiny hooks.” One usually thinks that it’s the wind that blows a tumbleweed around. Yet the poem states that it’s the wind being pulled by the tumbleweed. And that the wind does not blow through, but is “caught” among the “tiny hooks.”
Another poem, also shown below, was “Abandoned Labor Camp.”
Thompson once said that he gets his inspiration from the “sound of silence, the night sounds, the silence behind the birds.” He would pull off the road, and he stopped to listen. “The animals are listening too,” he said.
“Poetry is about language. . . the language of interacting with the world,” said Thompson.
By Don Thompson
A lost tribe of tumbleweeds
crosses the road
a half mile or so ahead of me,
while little ones hustle to keep up.
They’re uprooted, of course,
subject to the wind’s whims,
and could end anywhere—
maybe against a fence
to be gathered and burned by farm hands.
I know that . . .
But they seem so cheerful,
confidant and in control,
as if pulling the wind behind them
caught on thousands of tiny hooks.
ABANDONED LABOR CAMP
By Don Thompson
The rusted out and weathered sign
has nothing left to say—
like wooden grave markers
that used to have someone’s name on them.
You can tell that the two rows
of well-built bungalows
were tough for campesinos to get into.
There must have been a long waiting list.
But now, no glass intact,
and almost every door rkicked down,
ripped from the hinges that died hard,
the roofs slump, some already collaped.
And the few shade trees
that haven’t given up the ghost,
have gone crazy with loneliness.