Sunday, February 19, 2012


Until she was 17,
The only big city she had ever seen was Kiev.
At 19, she saw New York,
St. Louis,
Though only from train stations and tracks
That took her past the backs of warehouses
And then out into countryside again.

Peter arrived to take her the last few miles in his wagon;
He introduced himself, looking down at his old boots,
Then hoisted her bag, helped her up,
And took her home.

Wheat is wheat,
Wherever you find it;
Men and women not so different, really, either.
Sometimes he would imitate the way she spoke his name,
With the hard "r",
But his smile and the look in his eyes
Made her lower hers and turn to some task to hide her pleasure at having pleased him somehow.

The sun is the sun,
Wherever you find it;
And night falls warm in summer just the same.
With her head on his chest,
Together in the bed he had built and she had made sweet,
She told him how, when she was a girl,
They would sometimes see the Gypsy wagons going by on the dusty road.
She loved the women's red skirts, and knew then that she would wander.
"And look where I end up," she would say, smiling,
And swing herself on top of him,
Her hair unbound and just beginning to gray.

She was his match, you know,
His Ukrainian wife;
"What does that mean?" he had asked,
So she told him the old saw,
That a Ukrainian wife nags like a mother in law,
Looks like an ox,
And beats you like a Cossack.
Then she brandished a wooden spoon at him, eyes big;
Laughter is laughter,
And a good thing wherever you find it.

Three heads in the afternoon,
She would see across the fields--
Two horses and her husband under a prairie sun.
When late one morning she felt a pain low in her belly,
She kept beating rugs, mucking stalls,
Telling Russian fairy stories to her little Sam;
The one with his daddy's eyes
And her father's silver cross around his neck.

It may be that home is where the onion domes rise,
Or it may be that home is where the wheat grows high;
But life and sweetness are wherever you find them--
Down Ukrainian Gypsy tracks
To American sod.
for the Weekend Challenge at Real Toads, featuring Mary Ann Potter.

I was inspired by this photograph of Mary Ann's, which made me wonder what and who this house had sheltered in happier times, and also by this haunting song written and sung by the spifftastic Emmylou Harris.



Kay L. Davies said...

Shay, this is wonderful. I love it, especially "wherever you find it"! So true.

WinterWrites said...

I liked your take on the picture, so unique! It is the people who make the house the home...and Emmylou...she is, and always has been, amazing!!

Kerry O'Connor said...

Such a story! You have told the tale of an individual and the tale of a nation built on the intrepid joy of the wandering, adventuring spirit. And you leave us to wonder how it all ended...

hedgewitch said...

A very warm and real narrative, immediate and full of lively three dimensional characters--I like that you left the space at the end, just as life does, to let us fill in the blanks. The Emmy Lou is as always, the best--(that Dave Mathews guy turns up everywhere, doesn't he?)Wonder if it has anything to do with the Willa Cather novel? (Pretty sure the poem does, because, the wheat.)

Mary Ann Potter said...

Wow! Your narrative poem, Emmy Lou Harris, a perfect package with a gift to me, your work inspired by my photo. Thanks so much. It's just beautiful. Willa Cather would love it, too1 8-)

Mimi Foxmorton said...

Adoring the gypsy soul of this work.

Collage Pirate

Caty said...

fantastic story, Shay. I got lost in it; I'm already in love with the characters.

TALON said...

So beautiful, Shay, both the inspiration and your inspired writing.

Herotomost said...

A perfect read for a Sunday afternoon...full of so many good lines and a realness rivaled by few. OMG how good is Emmylou Harris. Her performance on Crossroads with Dave Matthew's was brilliant. Onion domes...laughter is laughter.....this was pretty damn stunning. Great work.

Daydreamertoo said...

Fabulous write. The whole atmosphere of immigrant and yet, still holding onto old family traditions and ways.
What a wonderful read.

Susie Clevenger said...

This is so beautiful...I am so full of my own nostalgia reading these poems. They have all sparked something in me. My mom used to tell me about seeing the gypsies when she was a little girl in Arkansas. Which was ironic since for a large part of her childhood they lived pretty much a gypsy lifestyle.

Cloudia said...

perhaps a former life of yours?

Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral

> < } } ( ° >

ayala said...

Quite a tale....lovely!

Shawna said...

That was beautiful, Shay. You brought a tear to my eye.

"Wheat is wheat,
Wherever you find it"

"Together in the bed he had built and she had made sweet"

"Laughter is laughter,
And a good thing wherever you find it"

It's fascinating how much life and marriage have changed over the years, not always for love, attraction, chemistry. But once for practicality, necessity, survival. Back when love was stronger and more enduring ... because it had to be.


Grace said...

Enjoyed the tale ~

Like the details of their meeting and his leaving until the last lines...its wherever you find it ~

Lolamouse said...

I so love these stories you spin! They could be songs in themselves.

Anonymous said...

Your poetry always tells the most realistic tales of passion and life in all its details.

Brian Miller said...

This def made me think of a time much different from ours...a harder life but one too where it was appreciated is much too convenient these days...

Matt D said...

A beautiful sketch of life, wonderfully told!

ellen abbott said...

I like this, a sweet story.

nene said...

Wonderful. This made me think of what my little eyes saw when first brought here to 'America' by my mother and that strange man she had met in Mexico. Interesting that the house on the picture looks similar to the house we lived in when on the farm force to toil and till while still with little eyes and little hands.

Gracias mi amiga, Fireblossom

Mama Zen said...

Beautiful storytelling. Almost like a hymn.

Margaret said...

Really felt connected to these characters. Love the earthiness of this and this prose style you do so well.

Daryl Edelstein said...