Here’s the human that exists, his hunger grasping how to cultivate, then gorge, and now he wakes inside the dead-mule smell of lilac around his cottage, and now he wrestles with roots in the sun, struggling, as a husband, with the harness, and while lancing blisters he remembers the view from Ktaadn, how a cloud soaked him on its upper slope—no brother but the self, and he returns, meek among the asphodel, even more determined that his crop will thrive, becoming almost desperate for long pails of water while beneath him is what he summons: brute feet, his hands smelling like leeks— in a notebook this is his thrift and estate: the stems weakened until he finds them cow chips, which he must have felt for in the dark but never wrote about stealing from his neighbors’ fields, and now he sees himself, without the pond’s reflection, for what he is, a failed guide, since what’s fleeting can’t be guarded: colors of badgers, the sober points of wrens, so few words, outlined, whipped from their oily wings. Listen to David Roderick’s entire reading, in mp3 format.

DAVID RODERICK’s first book, Blue Colonial, won the APR/Honickman Prize and was published jointly by The American Poetry Review and Copper Canyon Press in 2006. He has published poetry and fiction in several journals, including The Hudson Review, The Missouri Review, New England Review, Prairie Schooner, TriQuarterly, Verse, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. After earning an MFA at the University of Massachusetts, he spent two years as a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University. He currently teaches poetry and creative writing in the MFA Writing Program at UNC Greensboro, and he was recently named the recipient of the 2007-2008 Amy Lowell Travelling Scholarship.

“Thoreau’s Beans” was originally published by Slate on 27 October 2009.