Monday, June 10, 2013

IGWRT's Open Link Monday "The Tobacco Farmers"

Farm Security Admin.,  Jack Delano, photographer

The Tobacco Farmers

Back in the day
he was a dashing young man, 
I a country girl, willowy and strong,
both of us full of zest and glee,
first generation polish stock, we.
Toiled side by side, 
he decapitating flowers 
and suckers stalk after stalk, 
stooped, sometimes crawling
between row upon row 
of never-ending filth.
I hoed and hoed, 
black calloused hands 
better than gloves.
Every hour or so, 
his glance, a smile
would lighten my load.
Mid morning break, 8:45, 
already exhausted
somehow kept going 'till high noon,
clothes soaked through,
we’d lean our backs 
against solitary bleached barn.

Blessed shade, our haven 
in the middle of hell,
consider ourselves lucky
if we sighted a snake, devil himself,
bigger the better, reassured us
the monstrous rats 
would be held at bay for another day.
Precious minutes, we rested
hands tingling, swollen
blisters burst, pink, tender.
My skin didn’t stand a chance 
of ever being baby soft.
Back into the field, 
never enough water
to quench our thirst,
often feeling dizzy 'n nauseous,
flamethrower upon our backs. 
Times were tough,
possessions few,
but my Matka she tell us
“Enjoy this freedom.” 
So we did.  Dignity, Self Respect, 
and Laughter filled all our days.

by Margaret Bednar,  originally published January 12, 2012:  EDITED a bit June 10, 2013

This was originally linked with Poetry Jam.  I am now linking it with Imaginary Garden with Real Toad's Open Link Monday.  


17 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

i knew i had seen it right away. just love their hearty laughter. :)

kaykuala said...

Marge Ma'am,
Just in case you don't make a repeat visit, I've taken the liberty of pasting my response to your comments here:

"Tango in this context is presumably a Japanese word describing their own aspects of the festival. That's how I see it. It may not have the meaning of tango as we understand it.

The movie I saw was a long time ago and the word 'tango' brought back the memory immediately. But it went through the censor's scissors most outrageously then. I've not seen the current one.Thanks Marge!"

Hank

kaykuala said...

Real tough life these tobacco farmers. What with all the searing heat, snakes, rats and all! Freedom for all the sacrifices. Thanks for sharing Marge!

Hank

❀~Myrna~❀ said...

Love that pic &your verses really painted a picture of their life.

TALON said...

I feel like it was just like that...and what a rough life that was! Great writing, Margaret.

Brian Miller said...

smiles. i remember this one...the last couple lines...they make the poem....and the life...the laughter and love...they overcome the hard times....fun hanging out a bit with you tonight as well...smiles.

Susie Clevenger said...

Gosh, this hits home. I grew up surrounded by tobacco farmers in 1950's rural America. You have captured them so well...

J Cosmo Newbery said...

A tough life, without doubt! But one cemented with love and a common task, it sounds.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

A hardscrabble life but told so wonderfully the story captures the meaning and satisfaction in it. Loved every line, kiddo.

LaTonya Baldwin said...

Well done. Tender yet real. Appreciated. Glad you reposted this.

Not like your poem but same setting, if you haven't read, you might enjoy, _Change Baby_, a novel. Author's name escapes me at the moment.

Margaret said...

Thanks. LaTonya. I'll look into it.

ed pilolla said...

i could feel the heat on my back and burning in my hands. i've seen that photo before used as a writing prompt, but this was so finely detailed and alive.
i just recently began blogging again. so very nice to see you again:)

Claudia said...

i love the pic - i love how they laugh despite the hard work and enjoyed your excellent storytelling...

Margaret said...

Ed. I'm so glad you are back!!

Ginnie said...

You certainly can get right into their skin, Margaret!

Jim said...

Nice imaging, Margaret. I was right with some of our Southern Blacks in those fields until I came upon your term, "Matka," which is generally for Indian "Matka Mother."

As a teen and pre-teen I hoed weeds from my father's corn field. We share cropped in Nebraska. The weeds were cockle burrs, milk weeds, and dogbane. We also cut out all the 'volunteer' corn that grew from seeds left over from previous crops.

Hannah said...

Oh my goodness, you painted the picture complete, Margaret...I just love what you chose to bring out of them and I love this:

"I a country girl, willowy and strong,"

I really enjoy how those two descriptions play and contrast!!