Saturday, January 18, 2014

Headline Poem 1/18/14 -- Maria Rose

(Photo credit KPBS)

There are fires burning, and no rain in sight. Today's headline poem is based on the news that California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a drought emergency in our state. Mother Nature may still surprise us, but right now, farmers are hurting, and water must be conserved. In the meantime, I write this poem for a make-believe farm woman I will never know.

Maria Rose

for a hundred years my family lived here on this unpredictable land
foolishly patient when the calendar betrayed and punished,
forgiven the next year when magic storms brought life and comfort
amazing that water from the sky can bring relief like nothing else can

at her mercy year after year, preparations made for a party no one might attend,
stood up, all no-shows, again
the nothing years starved and paralyzed
the only thing alive were scorpions and mocking cracks, thriving while they slowly died

my mother carried her doll, smooth with fabric for skin
through fields,
brothers hunkered down, while she and her sisters stayed close to home
the dirt in her fingernails never washed away
not even the rain could make clean the brown hands of
farm kids
a stone-throw from town, they lived in a different world
foreign even to their cousins who were never allowed to roam the way my mother and her siblings were

cracks in the earth widened, thickened and deepened each year
prevented from living a life of luxury, the fields demanded constant swerving, and back bending,
so much to tend to

like rust in a well, the orange color is beautiful, but it doesn't belong
they all knew
scrapes on knees went unkissed
there were too many knees

the bottoms of rivers once covered with water, swift and swollen,
like my grandmother's belly, pregnant every other year for twenty, now dry
the loyalty fades
the younger generation angry at their parents
we are not as patient as you!
we do not have to stay!

they did, until one warm January afternoon when my grandmother laid down for the last time
roots severed, cut and buried like the baby cords in too-hard ground
the only one worth staying for was now gone