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More Poetry

                                                                                                                                                                               

 Memorial Day
by Jewell Davis Jungman

Once a year we go,
car trunk full of whatever flowers
our yard yields that day
and ferns from the neighbor's abundant supply,
on a route
that winds through four Iowa counties,
stopping at ten cemeteries,
covering some one hundred sixty miles
by the time we are home.
We visit the graves of parents,
a brother and sister-in-law,
aunts, uncles, cousins,
grandparents,
great-grandparents
before the day is done.

Two graves have been there
for over a century.
The grass is still sparse over one
from four years ago.
We pause in crowded city cemeteries,
near busy highways,
noisy with traffic on this holiday
as well as in small, peaceful country plots
with bird song and breeze in the pine trees
to serenade us.

Placing our simple flower and fern bouquet
beside the headstone
is not a costly gesture.
But it is an acknowledgment
that those buried there are part of us,
as we are part of them,
There is in our sons
a blend of the families
whose names we read on the stones:
Jungman, Davis, Moser,
Marquardt, Mapes, Hooton, Harrison -
as well as families buried in far away places--
Kammerer, Lewis, Mason,
Robinson, Simonds, Trotter, Watson,
and so many more,
both known, and undiscovered.
Some remembered, and missed.
Some we never met.

What features of theirs do we carry
in our faces?
What coloring?
What talents or mannerisms do we share?
We do not know,
but as we place the flowers
we are saying to that relative,
"We are here, because we care.
We know who you were,
and you are important to us."

Some day, Lord willing,
we may meet.
What joy that will be!
But until then,
once a year
we'll pay a visit.

  

Elusive Kinsman

Alas, my elusive kinsman
You've led me quite a chase
I thought I'd found your courthouse
But the Yankees burned the place.
You always kept your bags packed
Although you had no fame, and
Just for the fun of it
Twice you changed your name.
You never owed any man, or
At least I found no bills
In spite of eleven offspring
You never left a will.
They say our name's from Europe
Came state side on a ship
Either they lost the passenger list
Or granddad gave them the slip.
I'm the only one looking
Another searcher I can't find
I pray (maybe that's his fathers name)
As I go out of my mind.
They said you had a headstone
In a shady plot
I've been there twenty times, and
Can't even find the lot.
You never wrote a letter
Your Bible we can't find
It's probably in some attic
Out of sight and out of mind.
You first married a .....Smith
And just to set the tone
The other four were Sarahs
And everyone a Jones.
You cost me two fortunes
One of which I did not have
My wife, my house and Fido
God, how I miss that yellow lab.
But somewhere you slipped up, Ole Boy
 Somewhere you left a track
And if I don't find you this year
Well...... Next year I'll be back!

Submitted by Kim B.
(original poem by Wayne Hand, 1999)
 

 

THE CENSUS TAKER

It was the first day of census, and all through the land,
The pollster was ready, a black book in hand.

He mounted his horse for a long dusty ride;
His book and some quills were tucked close by his side.

A long winding ride down a road barely there,
Toward the smell of fresh bread wafting, up through the air.

The woman was tired, with lines on her face,
And wisps of brown hair she tucked back into place.

She gave him some water as they sat at the table,
And she aswered his questions as best she was able.

He asked of her children, Yes, she had quite a few
The oldest was twenty, the youngest not two.

She held up a toddler with cheeks round and red
His sister, she whispered, was napping in bed.

She noted each person who lived there with pride
And she felt the faint stirrings of the wee one inside.

He noted the sex, the colour, the age
The marks from the quill soon filled up the page.

At the number of children, she nodded her head,
And he saw her lips quiver for the three that were dead.

The places of birth she never forgot
Was it Kansas? Or Utah? or Oregon? Or not?

They came from Lithuania, of that she was clear
But she wasn't quite sure just how long they'd been here

They spoke of employment, of schooling and such
They could read some, and write some, though really not much.

When the questions were answered, his job there was done,
So he mounted his horse and he rode toward the sun.

We can almost imagine his voice loud and clear
May God bless you all for another ten years.

Now picture a time warp, it's now you and me
As we search for the people on our family tree.

We squint at the census and scroll down so slow,
As we search for that entry from long, long ago.

Could they only imagine on that long ago day,
That the entries they made would affect us this way?

If they knew, would they wonder at the yearning we feel,
And the searching that makes them so increasingly real.

We can hear if we listen, the words they impart,
Through their blood in our veins and their voice in our heart.

Written by Darlene Stevens
Submitted by Judy Little