August 28, 2010

Another Kansas Poem

Stories of pioneer women amaze me. I look at the luxury of heat and light I live with today and feel I don't know what it is to sacrifice. I can't imagine what they went through in the journey west. We have people living today in brutal situations because of natural disasters, and it will be a long hard time before they recover. Their stories too are compelling and instructive because they show us how we are destroying ourselves, physically and spiritually, through the endless need for comfort.

By popular request, another poem about a Kansas woman pioneer.

Mary Roberts

Spring Creek

August 1, 1874

The summer was going well. You came of age, sewed the green gingham bonnet you wore in the hazy sun that first August day. You walked hand in hand with young Jeff in the wheat and oat fields the straw color of your hair swaying with pasture grass, cattle idle and fat beside the low slung barn.

When you noticed the cloud, you both ran home, not believing the white, glistening

approach of grasshoppers that filled the horizon like a massive sudden snow coating fields five inches deep with green hunger.

Your father already at the plums with your sisters and brother grabbed the still hard fruit

to save what you could. You rushed the buckets into the house listening to the thud of insects land like stinging hail destroying your crops.

The watermelon field disappeared, twigs eaten, the merest sprout devoured. A branch of the cottonwood snapped from their weight.

Your mother rushed bed sheets to cover vegetables near the house, but green clouds landed and ate through the cloth, leaves vanishing in minutes. Only pits left hanging on the peach tree like stranded red bumps - onion skins left as paper shells gobbled from the inside - house curtains shredded, handles of hoes and rakes, harnesses and furniture eaten through.

Your little sister Betsy screamed in fear when insects invaded her hair and climbed into her clothing along her back. When you went to help they landed on your hat and ate through before you could get inside.

For two days your family fought them off and slowly they left when they’d finished the land.

Water in the pond, every fence post, gully and crevice oozed with green excrement.

Chickens, turkeys and hogs swelled from eating grasshoppers off their backs in the hopeless battle, their meat made inedible from the stench. Every bit of food gone for the year.

You stuck fast to the soil and hoed, the family gathering into itself, weathering that long, bleak winter, your young heart releasing and holding to what might come of your life, and your love in that wind swept land.

The following spring on a quiet morning, the loamy earth began to tremble with a pale imperceptible white, as eggs from the summer before, emerged and hatched, opening into daylight and sky, a green lakeof hind legs instinctively jumping.

Again, again, before your dispirited hearts,

the creatures swallowed with elemental vigor

the whole of God’s terrain and your

family’s backbreaking toil.