The Wheatsheaf – #poem #dVerse

A whisper shakes the wheatfield
Soft and sibilant; 
Someone’s walked over my grave
This afternoon:
A whisper, a shiver
Then silence echoes in my ear;
I feel that we’ve been here before.

For centuries we’ve sowed the fields
And ploughed the fields
And harvested the wheat
The Wheatsheaf – quaint name
Of a village pub:
I’ve never seen a Wheatsheaf 
In real life; only the finished loaf

Food comes to us
Processed, packaged, and sanitised, though
Our ancestors knew
Bad harvest meant starvation 
Bad harvest was a thing to dread:
‘Bring out number weight & measure in a year of dearth’

The prophet said.

For years and years there were no years of dearth
But only plenty 
Over the whole earth
Or at least
The part of it in which we lived 
Which meant the whole wide world, for all we cared

Children starved in Africa while 
We sent money guiltily 
And told our kids to eat their dinner
Thinking ‘this could never happen here;’
Sure, as long as all the superstores stayed open
It could never happen here
But now

Our house is on fire,
The flames are licking our back door;
Bees are dying
Crops are failing 
Disease and fear enough to empty shelves.
We talk about it down The Wheatsheaf 
2 metres apart: ‘but did you see the empty shelves?

The fields, empty of wheatsheaves
Ultimately lead to empty shelves
Our new-learned ignorance 
Means we have lost the instinct to survive: 
Survival’s not a game for politicians;
It’s when you have to fill your empty stomach 
For yourself

A whisper shakes the wheatfield
Soft and sibilant; 
Someone’s walked over a mass grave
This afternoon:
A whisper, a shiver
Then silence in echoes in the air:
It sighs and moans – there is no one to hear.

Written for dVerse Poetics: Waiting on Wheat, where host Rosemary Gonzales calls for ‘a poem about or with “wheat” and its possible variations.’

If you like apocalyptic writing, you could read this alongside my Letter from the End of the World.

27 thoughts on “The Wheatsheaf – #poem #dVerse

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  1. The sounds in the first stanza are so evocative and eerie, Ingrid, especially when you repeat it in the final stanza with the mass grave, and I like the reference to the pub name – I am lucky to have seen a wheatsheaf in real life. 😉 We have quite a few farm shops around here, where the food is not processed, packaged or sanitised and, living in the countryside, we have an inkling of how fortunate we are compared to other parts of the world, in which children starve. But sadly, there are children starving even in the UK. These lines are so true:
    ‘Survival’s not a game for politicians;
    It’s when you have to fill your empty stomach
    For yourself.’

    1. I also now live in a place where there is a lot of agriculture, and can get fresh, locally-produced food, and I realise I’m very fortunate, but so many are not, even in a land of supposed plenty like the UK.

  2. oh wow. oh wow. the eerie ambiance leaks through. the reminder of this alarming but ignored truths should ring loud and louder. you have wisdom and it showed in your work, Ingrid. this is powerful.

  3. This is absolutely brilliant. I remember singing the old hymn “Bringing in the sheaves” in the little church of my childhood, having no idea was a sheave was! Your poem is not only brilliant, it’s poignant. BRAVO

  4. Very atmospheric- eerie. I love harvest time and always reflect on how fortunate we are living in a land of abundance. The world is changing. You have captured this brilliantly. Especially the way we ignore what is happening around us until what we have taken for granted is no more.

    1. Yes we are very lucky to have abundance and need to realise this and not abuse it – it makes me think of the story of the Goose who laid the Golden Egg.

  5. This is so heartbreaking. The reality of our times. You’ve portrayed it with such poignance and eloquence. I love the repititon in the first and last stanza, it added to the spine chilling ambience you set. Wow, Ingrid!

  6. This is a painful truth you mention here. Almost dystopic in nature, but not very far from occurrence. I especially love how you twist a single grave to a mass grave. That last line leaves such a longing hole in the reader’s mind. Almost a dreadful echo. Stark and bold, and very very sad.

  7. This is so powerful. The circular nature…..the repetition of the words in the beginning of the first stanza to the beginning words in the final stanza make us reflect on what was and what is.
    These words I especially like:
    “A whisper shakes the wheatfield
    Soft and sibilant;
    Someone’s walked over my grave”
    They make me hear the sound.

    1. I keep thinking there are all these signs and not enough people are taking them seriously…including me, I think, because it’s hard to grasp that kind of threat.

  8. This is incredibly poignant! I especially like; “A whisper shakes the wheatfield/Soft and sibilant/Someone’s walked over my grave.”

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