The Upper Mississippi Harvest

by krstaten

In Minnesota, it is easy
to be mistaken for a farmer.

It is, I suppose,
a bit like farming,
what we do.

We till dirt until it’s in our sweat,
until our clothes are worn
and our skin dripping mud,
all the while praying
for enough water, enough light,
enough dry, enough luck
for a nourishing harvest.

So it makes sense
that even when we wear
sandwich signs proclaiming,
strangers still tilt their heads,
squint their eyes
at the filth coating our bodies,
and say, “You must be

No matter.
We will wash ourselves clean
in the Upper Mississippi,
don new garments,
and show them our season’s crops.

“Yes,” we will say.
“We are farmers.
until you are full and well.”

* * *

I work on a literary and art magazine through my university’s English department called The Upper Mississippi Harvest. Or, I should say, I worked on it. I graduated in December and stayed on until this month so that I could finish out the annual magazine with them rather than bailing halfway through, but our 2015 issue just came out this week and that’s the end of my work with them. It’s so very bittersweet–I’m proud of all the work we’ve done, and this year’s magazine looks beautiful, but I can’t help but be sad to be leaving, of course.

Through my three years on the UMH team, I’ve done countless promotional events for the magazine, whether to solicit submissions or woo potential oncoming editors. And for whatever reason–I don’t know if it’s the name or if it’s just because the cover of our magazine often happens to be nature-related–without fail, at every one of these events a handful of people would come up to us, squint at the pile of magazines on our table, and sometimes interrupt us while we’re explaining our magazine to ask, “So what is this, some kind of agricultural magazine?” When we told them what we were, they would look at us with doubt in their eyes for a moment, nod in the way that clearly says “I don’t understand but I’ll pretend to,” and walk away without taking a copy.

I’m going to miss working on UMH. This poem is a freewrite I did a week back or so, my homage to my years with the magazine and the wonderful team I worked with.