image of woman with trees growing on her back.
Artist: Enrique Meseguer (darksouls1) from Pixabay


green backs break
in fields of these
our ancestors
yielding growth
as the love of
labor's lost leucadia
leaps in cost:
taking toll
on body, on soul.

keep the love
that is your
above the fields
of those
your pioneer
that is your
of support
in short years
and in long;
the price you paid
for generations.

Musings on Generations

  • On green: green is a color. It is also an adjective meaning "innocent," as in a newly sprouted plant. A "greenback" is a dollar bill.

  • On breaking: "backbreaking work" is work requiring much effort and endurance, such as establishing a homestead, or carrying a heavy weight. "Breaking something in" means to use something in such a way as to lessen its stiffness.

  • On burial: Ancestors can be buried in the ground. Prehistoric cemetaries are known as grave fields. Corpses are known as stiffs. Buried bodies provide nutrients for things which grow in the ground (e.g. plant stock), such as the roots of trees.

  • On yield: Yield means the amount "earned" on money. But income can be considered "unearned" if it was not done in return for labor. Money is thought of as growing when the money it generates is added back to it. Someone who refuses to break a vow or promise can be considered unyielding or stiff. Yield is also the production of the earth as a result of nutrients put into it and the hard work (labor) done on it to produce crops. The future growth of crops can be "uncertain" due to the unpredictability of the weather, just as the future growth of money can be "uncertain" due to the unpredictability of economic forces.

  • On stock: In finance, stock is the capital raised by a business by issuing shares. Long-term captial gain is made when the stock is held for more than one year before being sold; short-term capital gain results from selling stock held less than that. The price of stock varies throughout the year. In agriculture, stock can be the type of animal or plant grown in a particular area.

  • On generation: A generation is an age group living at the same time. In biology, "generation" signifies the reproduction and growth of animals or plants.

  • On English common law: In english common law, a person cannot be convicted of homicide for a death that occurs more than a year and a day after his or her act(s). This dates from at least 1278. (

  • On Sir Gawain: In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, when the green knight visits king Arthur's court on new years day, Gawain cuts off his head. The green knight then reminds him to seek him in a year and a day at the Green Chapel. Sir Gawain agrees, and faithfully keeps his vow, offering his own neck in exchange. (

  • On Love Labour's Lost: In Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, the king of Navarre and his 3 friends take vows of celibacy for 3 years. A princess and 3 of her ladies from France arrive, and each male falls in love with one of them. Their messages are intercepted and each lord accuses the other of breaking their vow. So they agree to collectively break their vow and openly pursue the women. The women realize this and fool the men into wooing the wrong women. Upon the death of the princess's father (a king) and their subsequent plans to return to France, the men pledge to marry them, but they are repulsed because they broke their vows; however the ladies agree to reconsider in a year and a day, and they leave. (

  • On English ballads: The ballad The Unquiet Grave reads as follows : "I'll sit and mourn all at her grave / For a twelvemonth and a day. / The twelvemonth and a day being up, / The dead began to speak: / 'Oh who sits weeping on my grave, / And will not let me sleep?'" (Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1860), ballad # 78).

  • On paganism: In many pagan traditions, a neophyte (i.e. someone "green") needs to study for a year and a day before being accepted. (

  • On time: The definition of a leap year is a year and a day (at least in non-leap years).

  • On Sappho: Sappho leaped to her death from the Leucadian Rock in response to her vows of love being rejected. Alexander Pope writes: "Before my sight a wat'ry virgin stood: / She stood and cried, 'O you that love in vain! / Fly hence, and seek the fair Leucadian main./ ... / Haste, Sappho, haste, from high Leucadia throw / Thy wretched weight, nor dread the deeps below!'" (Pope's 1707 translation from the fifteenth of Ovid's Epistles).

Suggestion: Reread the Poem