Jennifer Johns, and we happened to notice the handwritten poem (pictured here) tacked to the side of the refrigerator. It's called "Kristen's Grace" and reads:
The silver rain, the shining sun
The fields where scarlet poppies run
And all the ripples of the wheat
Are in the bread that we now eat.
And when we sit at every meal
And say our grace we always feel
That we are eating rain and sun
And fields where scarlet poppies run.
For us, the poem's "scarlet poppies" immediately recalled John McCrae's famous World War I poem "In Flanders Fields," and so, intrigued by the apparent distance between World War I and what's going on at Zena, we set the office interns to work. Who was "Kristen," and was this her poem or her grace—or both? Might the poppies really link back to McCrae and World War I? And, if so, how does that affect how we read the poem today, especially in relation to the farm's mission? Well, we haven't found out who Kristen is, but the interns have discovered that while this is her grace, Kristen isn't the actual author of the poem. Indeed, it's a verse not uncommonly cited and used by sustainable foodie types—and sometimes by feminist types who see in the scarlet poppies a figure for menstruation—and it's usually titled "The Harvest" and attributed to Alice Corbin Henderson.
Harriet Monroe in the magazine's early years, co-editing with Monroe three editions (1917, 1923, 1932) of The New Poetry anthology. Henderson graduated from high school in Chicago and entered the University of Chicago, but due to her susceptibility to tuberculosis, she relocated to Sophie Newcomb College in New Orleans for the completion of undergraduate school. (Henderson's mother died of tuberculosis when Alice was three.) Upon graduation, Alice moved back to Chicago where she took classes at Chicago's Academy of Fine Arts, in the process meeting and subsequently marrying William Penhallow Henderson, an instructor at the Academy and a notable Arts and Crafts artist who, among other things, was working on Frank Lloyd Wright's Midway Gardens Project. Alice worked with Poetry and she also wrote poetry (her first book Linnet Songs was published in 1898 when she was seventeen years old).
Witter Bynner, D.H. Lawrence, and eventually Georgia O'Keeffe. By 1925, at least, poets were meeting weekly at the Henderson residence to read and discuss their work, and it's quite likely that Carl Sandburg, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Ansel Adams, Willa Cather, Robert Frost, and W.H. Auden dropped by for one or more of these meetings over the years; we'd bet a considerable sum that on his cross-country travels—some on foot—Vachel Lindsay did too. (As we know, New York and Chicago weren't the only centers of modern art activity in the U.S.)
On the other side of the Sangre de Cristo mountains there is a great welter of steel and flame. I have read that it is so. I know nothing of it here.
On the other side of the water there is terrible carnage. I have read that it is so. I know nothing of it here.
I do not know why men fight and die. I do not know why men sweat and slave. I know nothing of it here.
Out of the peace of your great valleys, America, out of the depth and silence of your deep canyons,
Out of the wide stretch of yellow corn-fields, out of the stealthy sweep of your rich prairies,
Out of the high mountain peaks, out of the intense purity of your snows,
Invigorate us, O America.
Out of the deep peace of your breast, out of the sure strength of your loins,
Recreate us, O America.
Not from the smoke and the fever and fret, not from the welter of furnaces, from the fierce melting-pots of cities;
But from the quiet fields, from the little places, from the dark lamp-lit nights—from the plains, from the cabins, from the little house in the mountains,
Breathe strength upon us:
And give us the young men who will make us great.
famous Civil War photo of that same title). If you compare this view of nature with the view of nature and its purifying forces in Whitman's "This Compost," you'll get a sense of just how shocking we find "The Harvest" to be. Indeed, when we now read "The Harvest" in the P&PC Office, we aren't finding ourselves saying grace. Rather, we find ourselves asking for some.