LOCAL VIEW –Scorched Earth Sonnets–

The state motto of New Hampshire is “Live Free Or Die”, but bureaucrats don’t seem to understand that “free” means I can do what I want, and they can just buzz off. It used to be a man could run his farm how he wanted, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, and he didn’t need a bunch of busybody bureaucrats butting in to test manure for methane.  Old farmers were married to their land, and didn’t  need to ask a person who knew nothing about the quirks of his particular plot of dirt for permission to love it. Bureaucrats beg to differ. They spend all their time far from the dirt and weeds, inventing rules and regulations which make it harder to farm, quite certain they know more about farming than the farmers they oppress.

Sorry about the rant.  I could on for pages about the error of their way and the idiocy of their belief. (For example, they actually believe in “Global Warming”, and are stupid enough to base policy on what has been scientifically refuted, but that is a “hot topic” I had better avoid.)

Instead of going on for pages and boring your ears off, I’ll give a little example.

In New Hampshire farmers have always been free to burn the dead, dried weeds from the prior year in their garden in the spring. The flames kill some weed-seeds and the ash fertilizes next year’s crop. No permit was ever required. This still is the law, but now you have to fill out forms and to be officially called a “farmer”.

My farm has been a farm for 250 years, (perhaps longer), and I dug my first post-hole in its stony soil in July, 1968. Maybe the farm had never produced a profit from food, but it has produced a lot of delicious meat and vegetables, and I don’t need any bureaucrat telling me its not a farm if I don’t file forms.  But, because I’m a cantankerous old coot and can’t be bothered to jump through the hoops, I legally have the status of an ignorant immigrant from Massachusetts, who lawmaker’s figure cannot burn the weeds in his garden without burning the entire town down, and therefore need a lot of legal advice.

Who needs a permit before burning weeds in their own garden? And, if they are going to burn the town down, will a slip of paper and paying a fee beforehand (and maybe a fine afterwards) make the flames less orange? All the rules and regulations likely makes fires worse; (or at least they “burn me up”).

Who needs permits? I’ll tell you who. (Deep breath). Stupid people are who, hapless Flatlanders who need a nanny, before burning weeds. They grovel before Bureaucrats, needing a nanny for everything. They need a nanny to tell their own children right from wrong, and when I tell them I withdrew my own children from public school and Home-schooled them, they are horrified. How dare I disobey the “nanny”? I just tell them I trust my own judgement over that of an outsider who neither knows nor (apparently) likes me. I’d rather be free, than some slave-to-a-nanny.

But I will play their game if I must. Below I offer evidence I got the nanny-permit, and burned the weeds without burning the town down.

(Please notice the blue hose in the bottom of the second picture. If the wind had unexpectedly risen and the burning weeds had shown the slightest sign of going-out-control, I would have quenched the fire. This sort of common-sense is something nanny’s don’t admit ordinary people, [even mad poets like myself], have.)

Yet as I burned last year’s weeds in my garden, something odd occurred. I was officially off-duty, and not watching the children at my Childcare, but all the children gathered to watch me burn weeds. My staff, who must keep the children from being burned, also watched. And parents, arriving to pick up their children, seemed strangely in no rush to get kids in the car and hurry home. They too lingered to watch what has been done for 250 year:  A New Hampshire farmer burning last year’s weeds in a garden, creating an incense in the April air.

I seemed a sort of rock-star, even though I was doing something everyday and ordinary: Burning weeds. I felt like a rustic character in a glossy magazine, and perhaps I should pose, gazing in a picturesque way at the honking geese flying over, heading north

Politicians and Bureaucrats have a desire to be rock stars, [and therefore to get more votes, which leads to more funding and other-people’s taxes to play with,], but that was not why I burned weeds. That is not why farmers are farmers and why poets are poets. They do what they do for something different than popularity.

What is the difference? I’ll leave it to intellectuals more skilled with prose to say. Instead I’ll just enjoy the poetry and beauty God puts in every day and every weather and evey situation, a sweet sanity that heals, has nothing to do with money, and can’t be bought.

Sometimes, just to prove to the doubter in myself the poetry is there, I get into a binge of sonnet-writing. The following two aren’t that good; more like rough drafts or sketches; but they demonstrate there is poetry even in burning weeds.

As I burned all evidence that last year
I did not weed as I ought, it seemed strange
How people gathered. Fire brought me no fear
Of arrest, because I’d bothered to arrange
The “burn permit” bureaucrats want. (Perhaps
The fact I dealt with rules seemed so strange
That folk saw I’m serious?) (It seemed a lapse
In my poet’s-misjudgment?) (I’d deranged
Some accepted order of things, with my fire?)
All I did was burn last year’s tall brown weeds
And reveal my garden had an entire
Lower level, called earth. Such ashes feeds
Unplanted seed. Why did a fan club watch deeds
That I did? Are they all hungry for seeds?


I burned the evidence. I failed to weed
To the proper degree during the heat
Of last summer. I had the crazy need
To write sonnets. Such needs surely defeat
My desire to get fat. There’s no mystery
To why poets starve. My garden was proof
You reap not what you sow, but what you see
Fit to weed. My crop shrank under a roof
Of green which turned brown in frosts of fall,
And then stayed proof all winter that I shirk,
But this spring will be different. To all
I announce that this summer I will work
Beyond sonnets that help day-dreamers slumber,
And will grow at least one blasted cucumber.

3 thoughts on “LOCAL VIEW –Scorched Earth Sonnets–

  1. It’s the smell of burning weeds, Caleb. In its own way, it is intoxicating to the mind if the wind doesn’t bring the smoke to strongly in your direction. It’s a natural smell that brings back racial memories, not to be confused with the smell of a house burning or a forest or a wildfire. If you said this in your sonnets, I am sorry I have repeated it. I don’t generally read open verse poetry, or something that “feels” like it.

  2. I thought a similar thing. As I saw the picture above my mind immediately filled with the smell of burning grass and weeds. I think my eyes even reacted as if the smoke was causing them to burn a bit! Nice memories!

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