My older brother Rolfe is a poet among other things. He’s also a dancer, traveler, husband, seeker, dad, grandpa, purchasing manager, and a self-described “old hippie.”
Many years ago he invited me to a poetry slam at a pub in downtown Minneapolis. I hadn’t been to a slam before. The theme that night was “harvest,” so I dug through my index of poems in search of something appropriate. Finding nothing, I sat down and dashed off a poem about a certain kind of harvest we will all face – dying.
On Being A Carrot in God’s Garden
You can be sure the hand will pull you from the ground.
You can be sure.
No matter how longingly the earth presses against you.
No matter how sweet the mineral sips at the tips of your roots.
No matter how comfortable your somnolent, unchanging days,
When you are ripe, you will be taken.
In this slumbering time,
in this tiny, dark cradle,
you cannot imagine sky
or the clouds that splatter the surface above,
or the green lace of your own intricate leaves.
When the hand comes,
may your flesh be sweet in surrender.
When the soil falls away from your snapping roots,
may you slide easy into the light.
When you lie naked in the basket,
may the hand rub the last soil from your skin
and carry you — singing and fresh —
straight to the mouth of God.
© Barbara McAfee
As I sat in that darkened pub, nursing a Guinness, I was astonished to hear the genius, ferocity, and virtuosity of the hip-hop poets at the microphone. I realized that what I’d brought was completely wrong for the setting and set it aside for another, more rhythmic piece I knew by heart.
That poem I scribbled so quickly – and then rejected – has become the one that has traveled far into the world. I read it at the funeral of my 26-year-old friend Joel – and finished the poem by taking a bite out of a carrot from his parents’ garden. Several chaplains have used it at other memorials. It gets around, this little carrot poem.
Now plans are afoot to create a book out of it in collaboration with my brilliant nature photographer friend, Julie Marion Brown. You can see her lovely work at her Tumblr site — http://julesofnature.tumblr.com. A mutual friend, Lucy Mathews Heegaard, also made a short video about her work – https://studio-lu.net/2015/09/25/jules-of-nature.
I wonder where the poem will go next? If you find a way to make use of it in your life, please tell me the story.