Writing in thte Dust

(The Story of an Oklahoma Dust Bowl Migrant)

Memories

I remember
when the wheat grew
and when
on Saturday nights
we drove into town
Mama, and Daddy,
and my little brother Red,
and me
To sit on the Harvey's
porch and watch
the stars come out
and eat apples
and custard.
I remember
playing with Mary
and laying in the loft
of Daddy's barn and
singing songs
we learned
in Sunday school.
And I remember
a long time ago
before the storms came
and changed my world
how Daddy used to laugh
and Mama danced
and we all ate off of
clean, white, plates.

The Harveys

Mary is a Harvey
and my best friend
who lived
on the edge of town
and had a cat named
Nanna Boo who liked
me.
Mary is a Harvey
and is my best friend
who's gone now
until
"times get better"
and the grass grows green
once again.

Gone

My teacher Mrs. Burns
is not a Harvey
but she's gone too
until
"times get better".
Gone west
where the air is clean
and the crops don't die
and the dust
can't reach her.
Sometimes I wish
I could go
west
with Mary, and
Mrs. Burns
and never come back
because I know
times aren't getting better.

Cleaning

My mother is a warrior
against the dust
that blows through
the cracks in the walls
and between the window
panes
and sneaks in
from invisible holes
in our house.
The dust that settles
on everything
so thick at times
I have to go to sleep with a
wet rag on my face.
My mother fights
everyday
to keep the floor
and furniture
clean.
And the dishes
the cups and plates
and forks and spoons
that don't shine
anymore.
I don't know why
we clean
like we do
if the dust will just
keep coming,
and coming
back
again.

Flip

When I set the table
every day
I put
the cups and plates
upside down
and the
napkins
over the silverware.
When we sit
down to eat
and Daddy says grace,
Mama says
"Flip!"
and we all
flip our plates
and our cups
right side up
and take
the napkins off
the silverware
and hope
we can eat our food
before the dust comes
and coats it all.
It always does
and all we can do
is chew the grit
along with
the food.

Bills

Laying in bed
with Red snoring
lightly beside me
I can hear them
through the walls,
"We can't hang on forever
Lily. There are crops
that aren't coming
in. And bills,
bills to be paid."
I can hear Daddy
and the strain in his voice.
Bills,
always bills
to be paid.
I can hear Mama, too,
and the tears she holds in.
I can hear them
and the wrinkles on their
foreheads
that get deeper
every day.

Nanna Boo

When Mary Harvey left
she gave me
Nanna Boo
the only thing
she had
the one thing
she couldn't take west.
Nanna Boo died
today.
Dust Pneumonia
did it,
she soficated to death
the dust
in her lungs
sucking the life out
cruel, horrible, dust.
I cried
when I dug her grave
in the ground
way deep
so the hungry dogs from town,
thrown out
because there wasn't enough
to feed them,
wouldn't find her
and fill their empty bellies.
But not too deep
that I will forget
about Nanna Boo
and what she was-
the only piece of Mary
I had left.

Daddy

My father
has a face
that used to be
strong
and happy.
My father
has a face
that is
skinny
and wrinkled
with age that came
too soon.
"One more chance, Lily,"
he said,
"One more crop and that's
it. I can't take it anymore."

Rain

It rained.
Not soft rain
the kind Red
prays for
every night at supper.
The rain came.
Hard and mean
pounding rain
that filled the air with noise
and
a little peace
because
it was easy to breath
for once.
It rained
hard rain
that killed the crop
the last of it
the last of the hope
we were hanging on
to.
My mother cried
tonight.
My mother
never
cries.

Good-bye

My mother
and
my father
packed the car-
Daddy's prized car
full
to the top.
My mother
emptied the cupboards
and the drawers
and the cellar.
And filled the car.
My father
emptied the jar
of the coins
of the bills.
And filled his pocket
with all our money
in the world.
Which isn't much.

California

They say
California
has money
growing on the trees
right along side
the oranges.
They say
"California"
with such awe
and longing,
California, with it's
green trees and
green grass
and green
everywhere.
It's been a long time
since I've
seen
anything
but brown
and grey
the color
of dust.

Emma

The house is empty,
clean
because my mother insisted.
The fields are dead
with nothing but a few
dying clumps of stubble
that a cow could have eaten
in three bites.
And the car is full and
waiting for me.
Daddy, and Mama, and
my little brother Red
are waiting.
But I can't go,
just yet.
I look around
for one last time, thinking
I'll almost miss the dust, almost,
but not quite.
I know what I will miss:
Nanna Boo and the loft,
I'll miss all the good times
I had here
and the hope that stayed for a while.
I bend down
to touch the dust
for one last time
and let a tear drip
off my chin, and be eaten up by
the hungry ground.
I reach a finger out
and write my name
Emma
in the fine, fine dirt
and walk away.
But when I look back
the dust
has covered it up,
blown it away
like I had never been there
at all.





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This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

Duckie430 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 7, 2009 at 1:09 pm
wow. really long, but amazing job. :)
 
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