Professor Emeritus David Graham shares poetical memory of Ripon

As we continue to observe National Poetry Month during April, we share this poem from David Graham, professor emeritus of English.

The poem is from his book The Honey of Earth (Terrapin Books, 2019.) The cover image, “Piseco Kitchen,” was painted by Graham’s wife, Lee Shippey, who retired from the Ripon College Department of Art in 2015.

“‘The Pump Handle’ was one of the very last poems I wrote before we moved away from Ripon in 2017 and returned to our native upstate New York,” Graham says. “It’s special to me because it remembers how much we loved our 30 years’ worth of walks on the Ceresco Prairie as well as in South Woods. The old rusty pump handle was visible from the path in South Woods. Lee and I love our retirement, but we miss Ripon greatly.”

The book is available on amazon.com. Information about Graham’s work can be found at his website, davidgrahampoet.com.

The Pump Handle

I like coming upon little bits of art
in woods or fields. The tiniest signs
of a human hand shaping, making.
Garland of grasses woven and left
by the creek. Twig figure standing
watch in the crotch of a box elder.
Smiley face sketched in fresh-fallen
snow. Curt + Libby 4EVR carved
on a beech trunk, now fallen
and slowly closing over with moss.

Even just a small stone centered
atop a larger. Anything that says
I was here, which is plenty to say
in this eroding world. So I was
sad to see the rusty old pump
in the middle of my favorite woods
had finally lost its handle, fallen
or torn off its pipe to join the duff,
or maybe carried off by kids.

The farm it watered long gone
even before I was born. But I’ve
marked the spot for thirty years
of hikes in all weathers, all
the while thinking of brothers
called in to supper, Holsteins
crowding up to the trough, some
mother humming her hymns
as the pump squealed
and gushed day after day.


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