They Never Knew: The Dust Bowl

May 17, 2008
By Betty Chen, Plano, TX

They never know.

They never know when it’s about to begin.

before the horror starts.
The ladies dressed up in their best,

milling around the town.



blissfully unaware.
The men, their garments soaked with sweat,

toiling under the blistering heat,

trying to coax the land-

the tired land,

empty and defeated.
The children, their clothes streaked with dirt,

playing patty-cake in the corner,





Pure joy.

The calm before the storm.

They never know when it’ll be over,

the brief respite between the battles.
They are fighting a losing war,

against the unrelenting heat,

and without the aid of rain..
The dust is sudden,

small at first,

yet it gains ground quickly.
Soon, the sand has slashed across the plains,

ripping the life out of the land.
The dirt is




across the once-fertile farmland.
The people try to take cover,

Like ants scurrying across the flat land.
Women yell for children,

panic coloring their voices.
They clutch them close to their bosom,

then scramble for cover.
The men in the fields,
too far away for cover,

scramble for anything

that can save them.

The winds start howling,

the storm growing in intensity.
People huddle together,



for hope.
The nightmare that stretches for eons.

They never know when it’ll begin again,

the monstrous disaster.
All they can do is pick up the pieces,

and try to glue back what is

already broken.
Shell-shocked, the women warily come out,

calling for lost loved ones

that couldn’t escape.
The children scour the fields.

looking for fathers
and sons
and brothers.
All pick up brooms and dustpans,

shovels and buckets.
They begin the tiring, endless work

of cleaning up.
All know that the dust will come again

before they are finished.
Gathering the shards.

They never know.
This is the world they live in,

a world plagued with uncertainty

and riddled with grief.
Yet they are strong,

and they comfort each other,


Because that is all they can do.
They must live in this world,

but they survive.
Because they must.
Because they must have the strength
to change what they can,
and the wisdom

to know what they can’t.
Because otherwise, they don’t know.
They never know.

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