When glacial bogs blush with berries
it’ll be a hard winter, folks say.

He is cutting down the dead pine near the cabin,
beetle-killed by drought last summer.
His chainsaw knows the hearth’s width
without measuring.

I went to the orchard on Route 5,
bought peaches for canning.
The kitchen smells of sweetness —
furry skins sloughed off with blanching,
floor juice-sticky.

He comes in for lunch,
fills the room with flannel and sawdust.
“A lot of work,” he says.
“Yes,” I answer.
We eat warmed over stew.
He cleans his plate with bread crust and pushes back his chair.
“Back at it,” he mutters and opens the door.

A cold wind makes gooseflesh on my arms
as I set the pint jars of preserves
in steaming water to make them sterile.


– Sarah Russell
First published in The Houseboat
Reprinted in WAVES: A Confluence of Women’s Voices
For Poets United
Photo source






45 thoughts on “Sustenance

  1. Wow, this is superb Sarah, the stunning image the beautiful words, I love the lines; “His chainsaw knows the hearth’s width without measuring.” A great write. Thanks for sharing it with us.


  2. love how the two labourers come together over a meal and then return to their work against the backdrop of harvest and death


      1. Thanks, Charley. One of my favorite things to do when I lived in Colorado. Palisade peaches are wonderful. We’d make the 50 miles trek to the orchard, and then spend all the next day canning. Great memories!


  3. I think I went to a dark place with your last stanza. Wondered it the narrator is referring to a sterile chill in the relationship. I suspect that was not your intention, but I’m tired today. That makes me a little negative. Regardless, I enjoyed your poem, the scene is foreign to me but you made it real.


    1. Thanks, Colleen. And thanks for the tip. I didn’t put in my new website, and the old url does take you to the pill site. Try I’ll try to get into Google and change it. Wish me luck…


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