The Sunday Poem: Tamra Hays... Both Sides of the Tracks

Tamra Hays, that wonderful poet from Mountainair, continues to write with simple elegance in brilliantly chosen metaphors. She finds her way so deftly from first word to last. You will enjoy this short, personal reflection.

After teaching in the Duke City for over 20 years, Tamra Hays and her husband, Michael, began to teach in international schools. They now split their time between Istanbul, Turkey and Mountainair, New Mexico.

Both Sides of the Tracks

Like the farmer who tends this bit of railway easement,
I am of two minds.

On the steep side, rampant blackberries scramble up the bank,
poke their thorny fingers through and over the concrete picket fence,
a gray and uniform device, tough as rails and ties.
What a thicket of danger and desire.

On the level side, tiny shacks—one for tools, one for chickens,
one for baskets and barrels—bound orderly plots
of winter vegetables—cabbages, artichokes, hardy greens.
All prudence and planning.

--Tamra Hays

Views: 17

Comment by Margaret Randall on May 16, 2010 at 7:32am
What a thicket of danger and desire... and the everyday. Wonderful poem, exquisite in its simplicity and surprise. Ever since discovering Williams, in the late 1950s, I have searched for such poems, that show us something about our ordinary lives that makes them extraordinary. Thank you!
Comment by Barelas Babe on May 16, 2010 at 8:31am
I like how the two-mindedness shows up in so many ways here - in the structure of the second and third verses and in the images you've painted with your words. Delightful poem.
Comment by bg on May 16, 2010 at 10:43am
Such a lovely reminder of the economy of other places where gardens and rail roads exist side by side. Spartan, efficient, yet purely poetic.
Comment by cathyray on May 16, 2010 at 12:34pm
"All prudence and planning." so perfect . . .
Comment by Ben Moffett on May 16, 2010 at 5:28pm
Two wonderful pictures painted with words. Oh, my! And I'm not sure which one I prefer. Maybe that's why my literal garden is an unstructured prairie somewhere in the middle, indecisive, not wild, but messy, yet easy on the eyes, for me at least. Thanks,Tamra. By the way, I've always loved Mountainair. It has a railroad and a steep side, but perhaps Istanbul does,too.I think this poem was set in Mountainair!.
Comment by Barelas Babe on May 16, 2010 at 7:50pm
@ Ben - I wondered about that, too! Living in two places almost forces you to think in dualities, or at least to confront two ways of being in the world on a regular basis.
Comment by Tamra Hays on May 16, 2010 at 10:55pm
Thank you all for the nice comments. I have always been interested in what goes on along boundaries and edges - physical, psychological, spiritual boundaries. It's never as neat as that railway in Italy (Sorry, Ben. But you are right; it could have been Mountainair.) was on that particular day. Usually, our blackberries are pushing into our gardens and our cabbages are sowing seeds in the wild. I've noticed that in Turkey the verges along the highways are used for pastures and picnics - even here in the city!
Comment by cc on May 16, 2010 at 11:09pm
Nice to know your poetry, Tamra.
Comment by Ben Moffett on May 19, 2010 at 11:56am
In the U.S., we are not so careful with out resources as to use railroad or highway right-of-ways for anything approaching grazing opportunity, are we, even when the cows on the outside are desperate for the flush vegetation just out of reach.


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