I watched my old life go by like television.

Slopes of grass whipping against bright blue skies,

Objects some called tools 

And others, totems.

A woodpile, a sheepskin, 

Garlic curing from the rafters;

A river’s loose slaps upon slabs of warm rock.

“Secret spot” read the caption disseminated 

Online. Coy copy. Cool 

Said the flatlanders 

Whose ranks I’d effectively joined.

While those I left drifted closer to one another 

Or God, to the sources 

Of life itself: children and dirt. Unkept

By the present tense, I was distant 

In my watching,

An existence I too tendered stagily 

As free. Like television, 

I was buying

Whatever was for sale

As the appraisers said You don’t seem like you’re from there

But I simmered in the grid

Of there’s off-the-grid life: the flowing virtue 

Of verdant surfaces, 

The cemented-down conclusion 

That meaning must be near.

The siren song soft focus of my own 

Slushy memories reenacted 

By someone else.

Good enough I brushed their expiration from my view.

I watched the endless plot 

Of daily benedictions over the land.

The land—


Any of you could feel 

You were alive in its popular image.


Copyright © 2021 by Hanae Jonas. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 9, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I’ve tried for a long time to write about Vermont, where I grew up, but could never find the right way to coexist with the tradition or expectation of bucolic poetry. Simultaneously, I’ve been thinking about how the rural is represented by those inside and outside of it, who is accepted as being on the inside, and the relationship between online life and nostalgia. In this poem, I tried to address these ideas by leaning on, rather than avoiding, the pastoral mode.”
Hanae Jonas