Tree of Wooden Clogs

By Jeanine Stevens

~Film, Ermanno Olmi, Italy, 1978

The tenant farmer amid

rain, mud and chicken droppings,

sacrifices, buys school books

for his son, the brightest.

who lights up every detail.

The walk long, the boy

arrives home late,

winter harsh and wet

cracks and splits the thin shoe.

A graceful row of trees.

One is chopped,

carved into a pair of small clogs.

Driving in a new roadster,

the landowner stops by the downed pine,

demands the culprit, chases

the father, expels the family

from the compound.

So much cut down

along this country road.

Viewing the film again in 2012,

I notice another peasant family,

a widow with many children,

their livelihood, a cow

hobbled in the fast-running stream.

All she knows is magic

and incantations. The repetitions

work, the cow stands. I hear

the beautiful Bergamasque dialect.

I now recognize Bach’s fugue,

a soundtrack so necessary for flight.


Jeanine Stevens studied poetry at U.C. Davis, and has an M.A. in Anthropology. Winner of the MacGuffin Poet Hunt and one of two finalists for the William Stafford Prize. Author of Sailing on Milkweed, her latest chapbook is “Needle in the Sea,” from Tiger’s Eye Press. Poems have appeared in Poet LoreEvansville ReviewPearlNorth Dakota ReviewPerfume RiverAlehouse and Quercus Review.

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