City Poet Country Poet

martha cinader

It’s been a bit of time since I left New York City (evicted, but that’s another story). I left in 2001 for Vallejo, California. That’s when I graduated from living in an apartment to dwelling in a house with a little backyard. I haven’t been back very often since then. But I left California too in 2009, (after hooking up with my husband the master gardener, but that’s another story). Arriving in Greenville, South Carolina, I graduated again. We left a backyard bursting with corn, veggies, fruits and berries, to go to a few acres of land that sustain our family. We put in, we get out. I haven’t just moved. I’ve changed too.

A piece of my pantry September 2019. Pickled peppers, pickles, broth, salsa, tomato sauce, whole tomatoes, jams, chow chow, and twenty gallons of grape juice concentrate. And yeah, people we give eggs to will give us cartons when asked…

Wherever I’ve been I’ve been a writer and spoken word artist, but my perspective about what I do has transformed with my transplantations. Poets like to talk about nature, use nature for metaphors, admire the beauty, mystery and ultimate mastery of nature. But there was a time when this poet was more comfortable at a desk in a room with four walls, and a window from which to observe nature cleanly, safely and comfortably. I didn’t understand back in my apartment living days that my roots were bound in the small pot I was living in.

The deep freezer, September 2019. Corn, eggplant, okra, squash, fish (my husband is a fisherman) and more…
We had our first bumper crop of pears this year. They are now more than a memory, they are waiting on my pantry shelf to be a winter pie filling.

When visiting the city recently my friends looked askance and made romance out of my pursuit of natural living. They oohed and aahed at my pictures of vegetables and pretty flowers without ever getting down and dirty with me. They say I abandoned the city, that I have to be in the city to be in the game, that I can’t come home anymore. And they are right. My roots have grown and spread invisibly, always thirsting, always traveling and reaching outward. I am my home. Now I say “here I am, come and get me.”

Back in the day, I used to run around with manicured hands to agents and promoters, producers and publishers, jobs and gigs and school buses, always pounding pavement, always returning to my cubicle, with only my potted plants to remind me of my connection to the cycles of life. I wasn’t one of those claiming a plot in a community garden. Looking back from here I can imagine that if I had been a city gardener, I might have stayed. I might have felt more connected to where I was. I left in search of a connection that would last longer than the terms of my latest lease.

Juice is expensive at the grocery store. Each quart that I can, makes two quarts of juice. I separated out the green ones and left them on trays to ripen.

I do the dance with nature now. I do the long grind, the dripping sweaty summer, the dirt under my clipped nails, the ant bites. I stay in the hot steamy kitchen, with piles of tomatoes to can and potatoes to scrub. That’s what turns me on. Standing in line to pay premium prices for fresh food that’s not so fresh just doesn’t do it for me anymore. I’m still a poet, even if I don’t get calls to do readings. But now I’m a poet who can feed herself. I’m more likely these days to serve poetry to you on a plate with a zucchini muffin. Not that I wouldn’t like to see my books in a bookstore. If you’re interested in publishing one you can find me in my garden.

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