The image is of my Grandmother, Beth. I was challenged to write a poem about squalor and love. It was a bit difficult until I recalled a memory from my childhood when I was about six to seven years old. My Brother and I helped with others to slaughter the chickens on Grandparents small Farm. My Grandfather Leo had built their home with his own hands, as well as the outbuildings, corrals etc.
As a kid the farm was magical, I played with baby chicks, I fed calves who lost their mother, I adopted and helped raise lambs that were orphaned. I also rode Polly, a Shetland Pony that my Grandparents bought for all the grand kids, but they gifted her to me on my birthday. I loved her, she was wonderful. When I was young, things were much harder for my Grandparents, it was before oil was discovered on their property.
They worked hard from sunup until late in the evening for survival, for food on the table. Sometimes this meant you did things that were necessary but filthy, hard labor. My Grandmother was something else. She never graduated high school, yet she was a prolific reader and incredibly intelligent, she was an amazing photographer and cook. She could quilt, can food, bake the absolute best oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and homemade pull honey candy.
I loved the stories she would tell about dating my Grandfather at church dances and drinking homemade root beer. About their courtship and when he was called to go to war, he stopped her school bus to ask her to come to a send off party. Then proposed that evening. So when he was called up to be in the Navy at the end of World War 2, she didn’t hesitate. She said yes and they hurriedly readied everything to be married and get him ready to go to boot camp.
They road a bus into Salt Lake City, Utah, while they searched for my Grandpa’s sister, Aunt Afton’s house. My Grandpa was so lost, he couldn’t recall the address, so a nice doctor and his wife spent hours driving around the streets until he spotted it. They were wed, they had a very quick honeymoon, then he went to boot camp. They stole time together while he was at boot camp. He would sneak out during the night, walk to where she was staying, spend the night with her and be back in camp before revelry through a hole in a fence. He loved her dearly.
A few years later they had my Mom. At that time my Grandfather built desks and other furniture while my Grandmother dismantled bombs from World War 2. She rode to work with a woman who was drunk every day and drove them to their job. She was courageous even on what she called her hardest day. The commander drove out and picked her up in a jeep. He related that there had been a death in the family. He did not inform her who it was, if he knew. She didn’t know who it was. If it was my Grandpa, someone in her family or even worse, my mother who was only a toddler. She had to walk home 2 miles from where they dropped her off, not knowing. It was actually her father.
Is it any wonder, that my Grandpa Leo loved her? She could be kind and thoughtful but also very firm with her rebukes. She was an amazing woman, I am honored that I am her eldest grandchild, what a great role model she has been for my Mother and I. I miss her frequently and at the end she fought while Alzheimer’s slowly claimed her. She died on my Grandpa’s birthday a few years after he did. When he had passed, she was so angry with him, she kept saying we were supposed to go together, why didn’t he take me with him?
I want a love like that. Here is my offering, based on a memory from my childhood.
I am hoping that my Mom will like this small tribute for Mother’s Day. I love you Mom, I know how much you miss Grandma… I do to.
The Farmer’s Wife
The work is hard and dirty for the grime and time you invest
To survive day to day trying to pull above the poverty line
Days where you use an axe cutting off chicken heads
Covered in blood and gore it is a gruesome scene
Where the body still walks and heads still attempt to talk
You grab the feet and take it dripping blood to your wife
She is covered in feathers and blood a knife in her hand
Her arms and hands scalded from hot water in a small tub.
Deftly she cuts up the chicken and plucks it clean
Ready for the next one that you bring until done
You fill a sack with heads, feathers and remains
Then you build a fire and burn them to ash
You are now covered in soot and sweat
The stench of the smoke, blood, and gore
About to make you gag and wretch
Yet here you are starving and longing for a bath
You smell cooked chicken unsure if you can eat it
Yet you stride into the kitchen to see your sweet wife
In a clean apron, a feather in her hair, blood on her face
You offer a weak smile and kiss her soft cheek.
“Dinner is ready.” She whispers softly, as you go to wash up
Loving her more daily, working beside you in squalor, as your wife.
Carrie Lin Jones April 18th 2018