by Emmaline Silverman

Cimarron County, Okla., 1937

These days, when darkness billows over the horizon,
there’s no scramble, no frantic shout to the children.
There’s just the double-checking of the wet cloths
secured at the windows, then the resigned hunker
and the kerchief over the mouth. There’s the set jaw,
the brisk prayer to an umber heaven.

And later, as we sweep away the film of dust--
the latest bread batch ruined, the wedding portrait
veiled in grime--we wonder what we’ll eat
this week, and how much pickled tumbleweed
the neighbors have, and why a land so fat
and golden-grained would close its fists.

Drifters talk of fruit farms in California,
leafy green with lemonade sunshine.
But those of us who haven’t caught
the dust lung yet might as well hang on.
The rusty Ford can't drive long distances.
Besides, the Almanac says it might rain next spring.

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