Book cover

A friend suggested I give this book of poems by a local author a read, and the first thing I wondered was, do I know this particular Tina? She’s a featured character throughout the collection — and boy, does that woman put in an incredible amount of work into, well, everything she does!

Author Kevin FitzPatrick makes no bones about his on-again, off-again love/hate of his weekend farm life with Tina. And I should mention, this is not (my definition) the normal type of rhyming, cleverly paced, poetry of yesteryear. This stuff is called free verse and in my opinion, is a type of flash-nonfiction. Tiny bites of story that may, or may not wrap up in the end.

Give this one a try:

“Five o’clock, Sunday morning,

Tina and I wake to rain and clatter outside.

Our dogs—a poodle, a rat terrier,

and a huge part-retriever mutt—tear out to a ladder

extending up the side of a full wagon of hay.

They leap up like ravenous sharks.

Whoever’s up there best not slip.

Enough. No barking. Down. It’s only Don.

It’s Don Roberts, seventy-eight years old with a bad knee.

who in the dim morning light and rain

appears to be fifty feet up as he crawls

and pulls a plastic tarp across the hay.

Katie! Betsy! Stella! Enough! You know Don.

He secures the tarp and climbs down,

telling us he drove over with a tarp and ladder

when he learned from Joni we ran out of time

to stack our last load of hay in the barn.

The dogs lick and nose Don’s hands. He comes in

for coffee, and then he’s off to deliver

vegetables in Minneapolis and then back

to the other side of Menomonie to see John the potter.

I reflect to Tina after he leaves,

I sure hope I’m that active and getting around

when I’m Don Roberts’ age.

I don’t know why you’re hoping that, Tina responds.

You’re not that way now.”

This reluctant weekend country boy makes it pretty darn clear he has a love/hate of farm life and sees it as being a smidgen less than a preferred way to idle away his time. Save for the fact that it does seem to orbit around the mysterious and obviously very industrious, Tina.

Though this is a writing form I have had little experience with, it’s attraction for artfully expressing a chunk of story in quick, concise snapshots is clear and interesting and very compelling. Even though there wasn’t a single poetic rhyme to be had, FitzPatrick did manage some smooth pentameters of alternating iambic as well as anapestic feet. Yes, I spoke with Mister Google and all things pentameter were explained.

I think this, perhaps, sums up the joy for our author as he leaves the farm and returns to living in town...

“She got up to the mailbox finally, turned her vehicle toward the highway and stars and disappeared.”

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Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

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