Bitter Tastes of Twigs We Chewed

It’s Food Poetry Wednesday, folks!

Sorry for no Tuesday Trivia, but it’s been one of those weeks around the office. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this oldie-but-goodie from Woodie Guthrie (yes, Woodie Guthrie!) called “Remember the Mountain Bed.”

While not traditionally a “food poem,” I love the imagery that Guthrie uses here, so vivid that you can smell the forest and taste the twigs he describes.

Remember the Mountain Bed

Do you still sing of the mountain bed we made of limbs and leaves:
Do you still sigh there near the sky where the holly berry bleeds:
You laughed as I covered you over with leaves, face, breast, hips and thighs.
You smiled when I said the leaves were just the color of your eyes.

Rosin smells and turpentine smells from eucalyptus and pine
Bitter tastes of twigs we chewed where tangled woodvines twine
Trees held us in on all four sides so thick we could not see
I could not see any wrong in you, and you saw none in me.

Your arm was brown against the ground, your cheeks part of the sky.
As your fingers played with grassy moss, and limber you did lie:
Your stomach moved beneath your shirt and your knees were in the air
Your feet played games with mountain roots, as you lay thinking there.

Below us the trees grew clumps of trees, raised families of trees, and they
As proud as we tossed their heads in the wind and flung good seeds away:
The sun was hot and the sun was bright down in the valley below
Where people starved and hungry for life so empty come and go.

There in the shade and hid from the sun we freed our minds and learned.
Our greatest reason for being here, our bodies moved and burned
There on our mountain bed of leaves we learned life’s reason why
The People laugh and love and dream, they fight, they hate to die.

The smell of your hair I know is still there, if most of our leaves are blown,
Our words still ring in the brush and the trees were singing seeds are sown
Your shape and form is dim, but plain, there on our mountain bed
I see my life was brightest where you laughed and laid your head…

I learned the reason why man must work and how to dream big dreams,
To conquer time and space and fight the rivers and the seas
I stand here filled with my emptiness now and look at city and land
And I know why farms and cities are built by hot, warm, nervous hands.

I crossed many states just to stand here now, my face all hot with tears,
I crossed city, and valley, desert, and stream, to bring my body here:
My history and future blaze bright in me and all my joy and pain
Go through my head on our mountain bed where I smell your hair again.

All this day long I linger here and on in through the night
My greeds, desires, my cravings, hopes, my dreams inside me fight:
My loneliness healed my emptiness filled, I walk above all pain
Back to the breast of my woman and child to scatter my seeds again.


And for an extra-special treat, click here to listen to a version of the poem set to music by Billy Bragg and Wilco.

5 thoughts on “Bitter Tastes of Twigs We Chewed”

  1. @ croquecamille: …and at least five points for Billy Bragg, right? 😉

    @ Abra: Oh, he was much more than just “This Land Is Your Land.” Man was a genius.

    @ KLo: Y’all had it good back then at Mama Fitz’s house. Now you’re inspiring me to start quoting some “Sailing to Byzantium”… 😀

  2. @ Abra….hijacking K’s blog for 30 seconds. How’s France?? Miss you at PCN!!! I love reading your blog – you’re amazing!!

    @KLo: Yes, those were the days, weren’t they? Simple and quiet.

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