Karen Hesse offers a taste of 'Dust'
Web posted on: Friday, January 29, 1999 4:00:25 PM
Outlined by DustMy father stares at me
while I sit across from him at the table,
while I wash dishes in the basin,
my back to him,
the picked and festered bits of my hands in agony.
He stares at me
as I empty the wash water at the roots
of Ma's apple trees.
He spend long days
digging for the electric-train folks
when they can use him,
or working here,
nursing along the wheat,
what there is of it,
or digging the pond.
He sings sometimes under his breath,
even after so much sorrow.
He sings a man's song,
deep with what has happened to us.
It doesn't swing lightly
the way Ma's voice did,
the way Miss Freeland's voice does,
the way Mad Dog sings.
My father's voice starts and stops,
like a car short of gas,
like an engine choked with dust,
but then he clears his throat
and the song starts up again.
He rubs his eyes
the way I do,
with his palms out.
Ma never did that.
And he wipes the mild from his
upper lip same as me,
with his thumb and forefinger.
Ma never did that, either.
We don't talk much.
My father never was a talker.
Ma's dying hasn't changed that.
I guess he gets the sound out of him with the
songs he sings.
I can't help thinking
how it is for him,
Waking up alone, only
left in the bed,
outlined by dust.
He always smelled a little like her
first thing in the morning,
when he left her in bed
and went out to do the milking.
She'd scuff into the kitchen a few minutes later,
to start breakfast.
I don't think she was ever
really meant for farm life,
I think once she had bigger dreams,
but she made herself over
to fit my father.
Now he smells of dust
tobacco and cows.
None of the musky woman smell left that was Ma.
He stares at me,
maybe he is looking for Ma.
He won't find her.
I look like him,
I stand like him,
I walk across the kitchen floor
with that long-legged walk
I can't make myself over the way Ma did.
And yet, if I could look in the mirror and see her in
If I could somehow know that Ma
and baby Franklin
lived on in me...
But it can't be.
I'm my father's daughter.
Copyright © 1997 by Karen Hesse. All Rights Reserved. Published by Scholastic Press.
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