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March Slice of Life No. 9  *  Poetry Friday.

During the month of February I participated in Laura Shovan’s 6th Annual February Poetry Project. On Day  11, Linda Baie provided a pencil drawing as our prompt. Linda received the pencil drawing, “Monday” by L. D. Wight, from her grandfather who had received it from one of his teachers at an art school he briefly attend before he had to return to the family farm while his brother served in WWI.

As I studied the drawing, it drew me in, and I heard it whisper a story.

This is the story I heard.

In the Sycamore’s Shadow

A sycamore on the west side was
struck by lightning the night I was born.
Most branches are gone now,
just a hollow trunk, no leaves,
no nests, no squirrels.
Not even the woodpeckers come.

Poor house never seen a blister
of paint. Roof’s peeled back
like the lid of a tin can, like
the ones scattered in our front yard.
No rocker on the porch.
No pansies this year in the old tire.

It’s Monday and I
been doing the laundry down by the creek.
Boiled some water over an open fire.
Softened a chunk of lye soap we made
from ashes and lard last spring.
First whites, then coloreds, and overalls last.

Swished it with my stirring stick,
scrubbed some on our washboard,
rinsed it all with creek water,
and wrung it out by hand
to spread over bushes to dry.
No clothesline behind that house.

Sun’s setting now.
Day’s been scorching hot,
so, naturally, everything’s dry.
Gathering it up now;
folding it into our
willow wicker basket.

There’s no smell of supper.
Ma’s standing on the porch;
Jethro’s leaning in close so
their voices are hushed like
whispering leaves in a
parched summer breeze.

Ma speaks slowly, makes me stumble.
Jethro steadies me with his
hand on our willow wicker basket.
I feel a chill in the shadow of the
sycamore on the west side,
struck by lightning the night I was born.

© 2018 Alice Nine
Illustration: “Monday,” a pencil drawing by L.D. Wight (used with permission)

 


Writing about my writing.

I studied the tree — hollow, missing most of its branches — and wondered what had happened to it. Perhaps it had been struck by lightning or destroyed by some blight or insect.

 *  *  *  *  *

I wondered what kind of tree it was. The smoothness of it made me think of a sycamore. I envisioned it as it must have been at one time — a majestic old tree, like this one I’d taken a picture on a road trip a couple years ago.

 *  *  *  *  *

I studied the house and was reminded of a place I knew about in North Carolina.

My folks had lived in a rural community when I was just a baby. They had rented a small house outside of town. My brothers and I loved my mom’s stories about them living in that house. One of my favorite ones was about the time she found a snake in the hallway. She’d told us about how she did laundry, outside in a tub with a rubbing board. She’d told us about hog killing time.

When I was in sixth grade, while we were heading back to New Jersey after a family vacation on the Outer Banks, my folks decided to detour off the main highway and see if they could find the place where they’d once lived. They found it.

My brothers and I were speechless.

Curtains hung crookedly on the windows. It had never been painted. As my mom put it, “There wasn’t even a blister of paint on it.” The yard area was dirt. Pigs were under the house. My mom’s comment to that, “We never had pigs under it when we lived there.”

(This is not the actual house, but it was much like this.)

 *  *  *  *  *

I thought about Monday being wash day. I jotted down images, descriptive phrases of things I remembered doing, stories I’d heard as a girl, things I’d read. Here’s a look at that paper.

 *  *  *  *  *

I studied the people in the drawing. How were they related? Were they from the same family? What were they doing? Were they sharing some small talk or was it a serious discourse?

 *  *  *  *  *

With these thoughts and questions stirring, mixing with my memories and the drawing, I put pencil to paper and the poem wrote itself.  It answered my questions and more, and then like a good story, it left me with a new lingering question.

 



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Poetry Friday Schedule
January – June 2018

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