A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 296

Chapter and verse

FARMINGTON – The acrimonious saga of property owner George Meyer’s attempt to sell 140 acres of land that has been zoned industrial for 20 years without attracting the interest of a single industrialist may have spawned a new chapter. Then again, it all may be a complete coincidence.

There are those in town who object to George’s idea of selling his acreage to a developer in order that 140 homes (aimed at the over-55 market) can be constructed, and among the objectors is town resident Paul Sprague. He took the route of co-signing a letter to the editor that laid out his group’s feelings.

But no mere objector is Paul Sprague. No sir. He is a man of several hats including that of poet, and as such, back in the spring, was declared the winner of the Goodwin Library’s annual poetry contest.

Since then, on a monthly basis, Paul has been dashing downtown to snag the latest edition of the Puddledock Press, hopeful of seeing his winning poem in print. May, June, July and August have passed, and indeed, some of the fruits of the library’s contest have made it into print, but not the adult winner.

This made Paul think back to his signature on the Letter of Objection, and also to recall that the editor of the Puddledock Press, JoAnn Doke, is closely related to George. Like, daughter or something. Hmm!

Well, anyway, whom did I meet at the Post Office, last Saturday, but my good friend JoAnn, and after beating around the bush for a fraction of a second, I raised the topic of published poetry.

Yup, she knows Paul’s poem hasn’t yet been aired in the columns of the Puddledock, but several others are also on the waiting list, and there is only limited space. She also remembers being upbraided last time she published a Sprague work, because she tacked his name under the title, instead of at the end of the work, thus impeding the artistic flow!

Well please allow Farmington Corner to help two wonderful people out of an impasse, by assuming the burden, nay the honor, of publication.


The Feeder

By Paul M. Sprague


As the last strains of darkness

are pushed back by the soft

whispers of dawn,

I watch the birds of day spill

from gilded bones of leafless trees

and gather round the feeder.


They come without avarice,

with no ambition but to share

in the bounty before them.

Different, yet the same,

they move as one through the

lichened limbs of the old lilac.


Chickadee is sparrow, sparrow

is siskin, siskin is nuthatch,

nuthatch is chickadee

and fat with promise

from the black oil seed,

they dance from limb to limb

singing a song of gratitude.


We are the earth, they sing,

the earth is our body, the earth

is our religion.

I smile,

and for a brief moment

all is right with the world.


But not everything is right with the world in Farmington, and we are not talking 140 houses (with or without 140 bird feeders) or even cops learning how to blow doors off with explosives at a proposed quasi-military range, instead of using ye olde battering ram.

For the past month, in the Rochester gallery known as artstream, there has been an exhibit of avant-garde paintings and sculptures.

“So what?” says you.

“Hold on,” says I. “There is a strange twist.”

Before the exhibit opened, 12 poets were invited to select a work that spoke to them, and to reproduce this conversation or flood of memories in the form of poetry.

Gallery owner Susan Schwake-Larochelle explained this simple premise to me, of all people, and I was about to pass up her offer on the grounds of not really being a poet, when, hanging on the back wall, I saw a work that began to murmur in a very disquieting way.

“Farmington dump,” whispered I, approaching a gloomy abstract painting dominated by a rising black column.

Back in the 1980s I used to shoot the occasional game of pool in Farmington Community Center with a young man who lived close by. Then, no one saw him for a while … but there were distant rumblings, which grew louder, until his name burst into the press as the murder victim of a trial in Strafford County Superior Court. 

I hope the following lines help the poor young man I still remember, and that someone more qualified in spiritual matters than I may be moved to give assistance.


Hugging Air


In artstream (with its “a” annoying small),

An eerie picture occupies one wall,

Not another bland abstraction,

This one pulses malefaction,

Dominated by a bleak and billowing pall.


Mihee Yeom calls her painting Hugging Air,

And on her canvas captures the despair,

Of an unrequited soul,

Seeping from a fumarole,

To remind the world that it’s still buried there.


Nigh twenty years ago, in lonely glade,

In-back of a torched van, ‘twas firmly said

By the crew of a tow rig,

“That’s the carcass of a pig -

Some vandals had a cookout escapade!”


With permission from the police, the porcine lump,

Was disposed as worthless trash in Farmtown dump,

Not a single prayer or blessing,

No salt tear, nor kin distressing,

And ne’er a thought it was a human stump.


One year later word leaked out of villainous plan,

Someone stabbed to death and burned up in a van!

To the dump the action shifted,

Garbage backhoed, scanned and sifted,

To exhume (but all in vain) the murdered man.


No body e'er was found in time for trial,

Though a thug’s now doing life for murder vile,

And still trapped in odorous tomb,

In the landfill’s scabrous womb,

A tormented soul is smoldering all the while.


Hugging Air depicts the spirit’s tortured wail,

This soul cares not its killer rots in jail;

Before peace can be found,

It must lie in hallowed ground,

So consecrate the dump, and right the bale!


When I nervously read these lines to a gathering that included poets of note from throughout the county, including Farmington’s own NH Poetry Society President Pat Frisella and Rochester’s Poet Laureate Jen White, I naturally opened with an apology. Poets, nowadays, would never stoop to rhyme. Talk about impeding the flow.

I was also relieved to discover that Mihee Yeom, painter of the $3,000 acrylic, was in Los Angeles and not in artstream, that evening. It would be understandable if an artist heckled that her masterpiece wasn’t a town dump - but what a flow impeder!

A couple of weeks ago, over lunch, I had the chance to discuss the possibility of unrequited souls with a Professor Beverly Cushman who teaches Comparative Religions, and who is also an ordained minister. Unfortunately, we were in the Canadian city of Saskatoon at the time, or she might have offered her consecration services. However, if any other properly qualified man or woman of the cloth would like to help close this sadly forgotten chapter of Farmington’s history, please get in touch.


Stephanie Piro photo

The author (facing) stands beside Hugging Air, a steal at $3,000, and delivers the poem that it evoked to a gallery full of artists and poets - including Rochester's finally appointed Poet Laureate, Jennifer White (streaked hair). Unfortunately, Mihee Yeom was in Los Angeles and unavailable for comment re Hugging Air vis-a-vis Farmington Town Dump.



July - Sept., 2005 


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