To Hear the Fiddle Sing

March 31, 2009
Relations

He is
the peddler
to most
Joseph
to some and
Father
to me.
He is
my mother's
husband
though I don't
know her myself.
She left
a
long
time
ago.

Tin

The wagon
lurches on
through dust and
rain and
snow and
anything else
the prarie brings;
wind and
heat.
We raddle on
from
town to town
every step the ox
Queen Sheba
takes
we rattle on
and on
and on.

Town

When they see us
they run
all those children
not much younger
than me
wind blown hair and all
they run
to be the first to greet
the tin peddler
and his
daughter.

Bread

The wives will trade
most anything
for new pans
and cups
and plates.
Sometimes it's rags
or
a nights sleep,
maybe money
but usually not.
Once
we got a whole pig
still alive
for a bucket full
of tin.
That pig
was
something else.
But Pa,
he'll take anything
just to keep
bread on the
table.

Scars

My father
was a hunter
in the days when
he was younger.
He has a steady hand
and
a good rifle
and can shoot a deer
from behind a bush
fifty yards away.
He was alone
in the forest
when it happened.
I don't know what
but he missed.
The bear
was so fired-up angry
she took his leg
before
he got away.
It hurts him still
I know
though he doesn't say.
Sometimes
he crys out in
the dark of night
from the pain
for my mother.
The scars left
are most as bad for him
as for me.

Cletty

Brown hair,
Brown eyes
like wheat at
havest time.
Calico dresses
but no bonnet
because I
hate them so.
Cletty Hassan-
me.
Too short,
too plain,
I think
for even me.

Fiddle Music

When the coyotes howled
in the dark
my father would drown
them out.
He played a fiddle
a fiddle named Ned who sang
sweeter than anything
on earth.
My father played like nobody
and sang too
sometimes.
I listened and when I fell
asleep at last
I dreamed of
heaven.

Mrs. Rady

We got there
late.
Pa almost set for camp
but I wouldn't let
him,
I was aching
too bad
for town.
Mrs. Rady was
in her nightgown
when he banged
at the door. She
had a rifle with her
thinking we were
down-and-outers.
Never saw
a woman as strong as
Mrs. Rady.
She let us in
Threw us in bed
after a cold supper
Told me not to
get in trouble
but I saw
her smile
before she blew the
candle out
for bed.

Morning

I went to check
on Queen Sheba,
she gets lonely when left
for too long.
When I went in
Pa was not up
I brushed it away-
he was tired from
last night.
But when
the sun sat high
in the sky I knew
something
was wrong.

Legs

It was killing him
she told me.
"Go get the doc,
Cletty,
Don't know if he's
in town
but go, and
do
not
stop."
I ran on my
two strong legs
for the doctor who
was not in town.
I asked at every house
but no one knew
where he was
or
when he'd be back.
I only thought
of my pa
who's glazed eyes
did not know me
and of the fever burning up
his mind.
I prayed
if God had to take him
take me
instead.
Anything
to save that pa
of mine.

Waiting

Mrs. Rady set me
to work
"Idle hands
are the devils playground"
she said.
The truth be this
if ever
the devil
comes near here
he'll never stop
for me.
I didn't know
anyone
could have so many
potatoes
to peel.

Ride

The doctor
is in the next town
somebody told me
"Over in Shelton,"
he said,
"'Bout one day ride
from here."
I ran
all the way to Mrs. Rady's
Boarding house
to tell her
I was going and
there was no use to stop me;
the doctor is
close by.

Far

One day
in the saddle
with only biscuits
for dinner
is not
so easy as
one might think.
But throw in
a dying pa and
a desperate girl and
it is nothing in
my mind.

So Close

I rode
galloping the whole way,
well almost,
and almost the
whole way back, but
I didn't make it
in time.
So close
but so late that
I didn't even get
to say
good-bye.

Alone

"Did he say anything
before he...died?"
I asked.
"No."
Said Mrs. Rady,
"He slipped out
in his sleep."
And that was all.
The whole town came
to pay respects and say
how sorry they were
for me.
I wanted to say
I don't need sympathy
I need my pa
but Mrs. Rady
saw it coming and told them
I
just needed to be alone
right now.
The last thing
I wanted
in the world.

Flowers

They dug the grave
and the Reverend said
the words.
Some ladies cried
and put flowers on the
mound.
I didn't cry
I didn't talk
I only thought
how glad I'd be when
I woke up to find
it was all a dream.

Orphan

What was to be done
with me?
Everybody wondered.
At the general store,
behind me
in the street.
Sad glances followed me
and they whispered
so I wouldn't hear.
"What will happen to
the orphan girl?"
But I heard them
anyway.

Plans

Kind Mary Larsen
said
she knew a family who
could take me,
poor family
burdened with
eight children.
Mrs. Rady nodded;
she liked the plan.
The boarding rent
was overdue
the tin wagon sold
and Queen Sheba too.
But I never knew
what happened
to Ned.
Then somebody said,
"The Orphan train
in coming through;
they might take her."
And so Mrs. Rady said
I was going
in the morning.
On the Orphan Train.
And to think
I actually liked her
once apon a time.

Orphan Train

She scrubbed me
til I shone
red as apples in fall.
I told her
I could clean myself
I was old enough
after all.
I was sent off
with
a satchet of
biscuits and
pork,
a penny or two
and
a bonnet
that I was told
to wear.

A Friend

He said his name
was Ben.
He smiled
so I smiled back.
I hadn't see one of those
for a while.
He asked
about me
so
I told him.
I told Ben
about Pa and
the tin wagon and how
he'd never heard music til he'd heard
my father play his fiddle.
I told him
about Queen Sheba and
Mrs. Rady and
my mother who
was never there.
I told him
about the prarie
and the lonely nights and
how I never,
ever,
ever cried
not even when
my father died.
I told him because
he listened and
I'd never met someone
who'd done
that
before.

Stop

The train stopped
in a small
small town.
We all got out,
all of us
"poor, unfortunate
orphans".
The people came
to pick the ones
they wanted
and
leave the ones they
didn't.
Nobody wanted me.
Or Ben.
And when we got back on the
train.
I cried
I was glad.

Somewhere

I do not know
where I would
end up.
How does anyone
live
like
this?

Music

We slept
on the train,
rain
pounding on the roof
as loud as
Indian drums.
I thought how
the fiddle sang; drowning out
the coyote's
chilling cries
When
Ben pulled out
a harmonica
beaten
but loved.
And he played
music that twisted
in the stuffy air and
burst
in my heart,
glad notes of not knowing
but being happy
anyway.
And when he played
the hurt faded and
it was,
Almost
good enough.





Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback