A favorite poem in a new setting
The fatiha in Hebrew; thoughts on poetry, scripture, translation

This week's portion: harvest


Big pink Brandywines
rippled and bulging
anchor the ends of plants
now twisted and blackened.

Every week might be the last
for this embarrassment of riches,
sungolds like coins
in my green paper basket.

I pull up leggy purple beans
and strip them bare.
Basil stains my nails
and scents my fingertips.

And always the injunction
to leave some in the rows
for the fifty other families
who step lightly

on these fields, allowing
the hidden earthworms
to build soil tilth
in their mysterious ways.

When you reap the harvest in your field and overlook a sheaf in the field, do not turn back to get it; it shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow -- in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. -- Genesis 24:19

Deep in this week's portion comes this exhortation to leave a portion of the harvest in the fields for gleaners. Reading it, I immediately think of the kind of harvest in which I'm blessed to participate -- the weekly ritual of picking some of the more labor-intensive crops at Caretaker Farm, our beloved CSA.

There's an awareness that we're sharing the farm not only with all of the other families who join as members but also with the creatures of the natural world. Our compost scraps feed the animals and enrich the soil; the soil is home to underground organisms that shape its character; the character of the soil gives rise to the next year's produce.

In the plainest sense, this verse from our Torah portion is talking about the need to ensure that food is available for those who hunger. But on a deeper level, I see this verse as a reminder that the abundance we receive doesn't belong to us. We didn't create it, and we're not entitled to keep all of it. It's incumbent on us to make sure there's enough to go around. Enough food and clean water, enough security, enough roads and schools and social services that "the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow" -- immigrants, those who have no one to protect their rights, those who have experienced loss -- receive what they need. If we do that, God will bless us in all that we do.

As usual, if you can't see the audio player at the top of the post or if you want to download the recording of this poem, help yourself to harvest.mp3.

Technorati tags: , , , , .