Every Useful thing






No doubt

Marshall’s sorrow is the same as human

sorrow generally, but there is this

difference. To live in a doomed city, a doomed

nation, a doomed world is desolating, and we all

are desolate. But to live on a doomed farm

is worse. It must be worse. There the exact

point of connection, gate of conversion, is –

mind and life. The hilltop farms are going.

Bottomland farms, mechanized, are all that survive.

As more and more developers take over

northern Vermont, values of land increase,

taxes increase, farming is an obsolete vocation –

while half the world goes hungry. Marshall walks

his fields and woods, knowing every useful thing

about them, and knowing his knowledge is useless.


from Hayden Carruth’s poem Marshall Washer. It’s a good one. You can read the rest of it in this book

16 thoughts on “Every Useful thing”

  1. Woo ha, first I think “man those are special boys fleshing hides!” Then I think “a work of art those stretched hides with the lone sunflower poised between”. Then I think “man that’s depressing. That was one depressed dude.” I, too, am thankful for the keepers of Marshall’s knowledge.

      1. Bound to be when they haven’t had years in an institution being prevented from educating themselves, like the rest of us. ❤

  2. Farms (small farms)are undoomable. Only the farmer. Just like books and songs and timber frames are undoomable, only the author, the singer, the timber framer. When the moon blinks out only then will farms go. But that’s different. The farm, the small farm, the project of the soul like yours Ben and mine and others, is eternal. The last soul when it goes will be a soul farming his/her inch of land, the last carrots over there, last goat in the last barn. God goes first, small farm second.

  3. His knowledge is not useless.I did not read the whole poem, as I don’t have access to it right now. I couldn’t help think of my wonderful state of Maine when reading the poem and how very fortunate and optimistic I am about farming here. I live in rural Maine, more central than north or south. Just about every person I know has a hand in farming. From the person that shops at farmers markets to support the local farmer to the family with a CSA to the apprentice or WWOOF’ers and finally to the actual farmer. I never really stopped to think about it until I read the poem you posted. Small farms in Maine, maybe in Vermont are not doomable, right now. As far as I can see, and from what I hear people talk about it, things are pretty good.

  4. Even if the poem seems a little bit of a downer, those pictures sure aren’t. No knowledge is useless if it is being passed on to others as is clearly the case with your boys. Just think of all the people they will influence and inspire in their lifetimes! That ripple effect cannot be underestimated. Love the sunflower, too. Their bright faces always make me hopeful.

  5. Yes, you can taste the doom on his lips. And on your lips too if you want to. The taste of doom is always there. Ripe and ready, like an ice cream cone licked off a forearm. Even from the hills of Vermont and the forests of Maine they can see it coming. And I’ll show you what it looks like in the video at the bottom of this reply. But before the doom, yea, even as the doom drips you can still taste the hill country farmers. Dreams are never doomed really. Unless you give into it completely. But we dream on.

    1. I find myself in agreement with Charles Eisenstein’s thinking that where we are today is the inevitable outcome of choices made thousands and thousands of years ago, and the insanity being toyed with will not end until it’s fully played out. If earth survives our present destructive behavior, it seems to me that we, as a species, are ripe for re-birth, an evolution into something more beautiful.

      1. I am currently reading Eisenstein’s “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.” Highly recommend it to all!

    2. Eumaeus
      I have heard it stated that “Mainstream America” is like a huge bus full of drunken, wildly partying people traveling around the world at high speed, running over fields and streams, small farms and the like, leaving nothing in its path but destruction—-and no one is looking out through the windows. Man, looks like it made a stop and Tokyo got on board.

  6. Here in the Connecticut River Valley with the 7th best soil in the world, it’s really depressing to see it being built on. In our towns, more and more farm land is going to condos or McMansions. What’s wrong with this picture??

    But also in our valley, there’s a slow increase in small farms, organic farms, permaculture farms. But they aren’t usually on this perfect growing soil. But at least they exists.

  7. Damn, if I lived in one of those McMansions in the Connecticut River Valley (which I wouldn’t because I’d commit suicide first) but if I did I’d plant a big ole garden on every inch of that wonderful soil.

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