The silver rain, the golden sun
The fields where scarlet poppies run
And all the ripples in the wheat
Are in the bread that I do eat
So when I sit for every meal
And say a grace, I always feel
That I am eating rain and sun
And fields where scarlet poppies run.
As I went about the business of my day as the new full-time soup maker and general rouseabout person at Umps this verse kept popping into my head. It was a welcome change from the Cardi B or Post Malone which seems to follows me in from the morning commute with my beloved son and often gets on a one line repeat while I chop endless pounds of vegetables. I know this verse from saying it each day before lunch with a class of delightful first and second graders. Pre-lunch verse recitation is no easy task for 22 hungry and chatty little ones. Most days the verse was a bit rushed or not really in unison. Usually I would choose to ignore the one student who spoke too quickly and loudly in an effort to lead the class into getting to their lunch box faster, or the dreamy child who stood silent and still seemingly oblivious to the verse being spoken around them. Then there was the child who spoke the verse perfectly while edging their way backwards towards the cubby door so they could be first to get their lunchbox. But on occasion we got it, the words spoken in just the right cadence and tone, perfectly in unison. When this happened we all felt it and there would be a tiny moment when the verse hung in the air, before the inevitable hurry in search of water bottles, lunch boxes and friendly chatter.
I taught the children this poem because it brings the connection between the land and the food we eat in a simple poetic way. It’s Eurocentric for sure, there are no scarlet poppies running in the fields of New England. It’s not representative of the gluten free gang who are about to tuck into their lunches and the verse does not tell us if the wheat is bleached, aerated, local or organic. Oh well, I say.
If I stayed teaching and followed the class into the upper grades, as was the case with my last class, I would have brought back what would have been, by then, a long forgotten verse and we would have talked about the scarlet poppies and the fields of wheat. We would have talked about them in connection to Veterans Day or Remembrance Day, as it is also known in other parts of the world. Small seeds can grow into big questions and that is the beauty of a simple children’s verse.