"Pastoral" by Hanae Jonas

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June 9, 2021 

Pastoral


Hanae Jonas

I watched my old life go by like television.

Slopes of grass whipping against bright blue skies,

Objects some called tools 

And others, totems.

A woodpile, a sheepskin, 

Garlic curing from the rafters;

A river’s loose slaps upon slabs of warm rock.

“Secret spot” read the caption disseminated 

Online. Coy copy. Cool 

Said the flatlanders 

Whose ranks I’d effectively joined.

While those I left drifted closer to one another 

Or God, to the sources 

Of life itself: children and dirt. Unkept

By the present tense, I was distant 

In my watching,

An existence I too tendered stagily 

As free. Like television, 

I was buying

Whatever was for sale

As the appraisers said You don’t seem like you’re from there

But I simmered in the grid

Of there’s off-the-grid life: the flowing virtue 

Of verdant surfaces, 

The cemented-down conclusion 

That meaning must be near.

The siren song soft focus of my own 

Slushy memories reenacted 

By someone else.

Good enough I brushed their expiration from my view.

I watched the endless plot 

Of daily benedictions over the land.

The land—

O—

Any of you could feel 

You were alive in its popular image.

Copyright © 2021 by Hanae Jonas. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 9, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

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“I’ve tried for a long time to write about Vermont, where I grew up, but could never find the right way to coexist with the tradition or expectation of bucolic poetry. Simultaneously, I’ve been thinking about how the rural is represented by those inside and outside of it, who is accepted as being on the inside, and the relationship between online life and nostalgia. In this poem, I tried to address these ideas by leaning on, rather than avoiding, the pastoral mode.”
Hanae Jonas

Hanae Jonas is a writer living in Austin, Texas. She has received fellowships from Kundiman, Vermont Studio Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Helen Zell Writers’ Program, among others.
“Pastoral” by Jennifer Chang
read more
“Pokeberries” by Ruth Stone
read more

Thanks to Anaïs Duplan, author of Blackspace: On the Poetics of an Afrofuture (Black Ocean, 2020), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Read a Q&A about Duplan’s curatorial approach and find out more about our guest editors for the year
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