Monday, May 6, 2013

"Homestead Acts": the History, the Present, and My Poem

One of my poems has just been published in Slant, a journal I love.  For years, Slant only chose my poems that were rooted in Greek mythology.  But this one is rooted in my love of Laura Ingalls Wilder and my weariness with meetings that accomplish nothing but going over what we've discussed before.

Those of you familiar with this blog and other works will see themes that you recognize.

And yes, after one particularly horrible meeting about assessment, I did go to an exhibit of Cuban art, and thought about that juxtaposition.  And yes, I do have a quilt made by a spinster aunt of my grandmother, but it's much too precious to actually use it.  It lives in the cedar chest.

Homestead Acts

During boring meetings, I sketch
covered wagons and sod houses.
I make lists of my possessions:
what would an immigrant need
and what could be jettisoned?

I know I wouldn’t have the right
tools. I know the history:
one group displaced
so another can homestead,
and in the end, only a few success stories.
Most went mad or broke.
More starved to death than records tell.
Sickness stalked the Plains,
and native life forms perished.

At the end of my day of combative
meetings, the modern form of scalping
and counting coup, I wander
into the museum that displays
the art of the dispossessed.
I think of Cubans and their desperate
rafts, the Pedro Pan children.

I return home to my snug
cottage with the furniture
of my ancestors to comfort
me. I think of dining room tables dotting
Western trails, and I brew
tea in my great grandmother’s china
pot. I tend to my seedlings before settling
in for the night under the quilt
made by the anxious hands
of my grandmother’s spinster aunt.

1 comment:

rbarenblat said...

Oh, I like this very much. I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books voraciously (and repeatedly) as a kid; in adulthood I've become conscious of what's problematic in that history. I love how this poem touches on both the fantasy / the love, and the history / the reality - and the way it roots the reader in a different reality altogether.