What Does Freedom Mean To A Lawnmower?

Louis Jenkins ( 1942 – 2019)


By Louis Jenkins
I take the snap from the center, fake to the right, fade back…
I’ve got protection. I’ve got a receiver open downfield…
What the hell is this? This isn’t a football, it’s a shoe, a man’s
brown leather oxford. A cousin to a football maybe, the same
skin, but not the same, a thing made for the earth, not the air.
I realize that this is a world where anything is possible and I
understand, also, that one often has to make do with what one
has. I have eaten pancakes, for instance, with that clear corn
syrup on them because there was no maple syrup and they
weren’t very good. Well, anyway, this is different. (My man
downfield is waving his arms.) One has certain responsibilities,
one has to make choices. This isn’t right and I’m not going

to throw it.

Luis Jenkins died in December of 2019.  He was celebrated locally, a Minnesota poet, a denizen of our great north woods and a master story teller in verse.  How widely known he was outside of Minnesota I don’t know but he had a solid fan base in the upper Midwest. Jenkins rubbed shoulders with other writers and poets in Minnesota and reached a broader audience through his regular contributions on Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor.

Jenkins free-verse poems at first glance do not look like “sonnets”.   His careful construction, attention to detail in how they read verbally and length definitely build off the sonnet tradition.   If you add up the total number of syllables in many of his poems they are eerily similar in length to a sonnet’s traditional 140.

Free Lawn Mower

by Louis Jenkins

There’s a broken down lawn mower at the curbside with a sign reading “FREE.” And so I ask myself, what does freedom mean to a lawn mower? A lawn mower that has only one job and no outside interests, a job which it can no longer perform? Gone the days of the engine’s roar, the cloud of blue smoke, the open lawn, the waves of cut grass left in its wake, the flying gravel, the mutilated paper cup. Freedom could only mean the freedom to rust away into powder and scale. Most likely the lawn mower will be thrown into the back of a beat-up truck by a guy who sees its potential as scrap, a guy who will seize upon anything of even the slightest value, anything free.