They came out of the old America,
He knew the sounds of the saloon
above which he was born,
the rise of raucous laughter
lifted by barley and hops,
the sight of late afternoon
sun slanting through the window
coming to lie down on floorboards.
She knew the beat of fresh milk
squeezed from the swollen teat
splashing against the bottom
and sides of a granite bucket,
the high and lonesome wail
of her daddy’s pure tenor
as he strummed the mandolin
higher and higher to get
the rise of the winter wind
to come inside the farmhouse.
He knew the scream of his
father’s circular saw ripping
into the great white oak logs
waiting to be ripped into timber.
Her legs knew how to take
her down into the little woods
at the far end of the pasture
where she stirred the corn mash
before turning around and skipping
through the weeds as if she had never
done anything wrong and just
wanted to play with her rag doll.
He would grow up to play fiddle
at barn dances, to feel the flow
of notes rising out of the scrape
of his bow across the strings.
She would move into the dance
that took over her ready feet
and one night led into his
waiting arms. My parents came
out of a tiny post-civil War village
and a small hand-me-down farm
and a country that is still part
of me but dies a little bit
every day as the sun climbs
up in the East and rolls down
in the West as I hold on to
the voices that were theirs.
-Norbert Krapf (Marion County)
from the author’s book, Songs in Sepia and Black and White
(IndianaUniversity Press, 2012)
Norbert Krapf, a Jasper native who lives in downtown Indianapolis, was Indiana Poet Laureate 2008-10. Two of his recent books are American Dreams: Reveries and Revisitations (Mongrel Empire Press, 2013) and Songs in Sepia and Black and White (Indiana Univ. Pr., 2012), which includes “The Old America.” His new book is Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet’s Journal of Healing (Greystone Publications, April 2014): http://www.krapfpoetry.com/cbb.html.
Indiana Humanities is celebrating National Poetry Month by sharing a poem from an Indiana poet every day in April (hand-selected by Indiana Poet Laureate George Kalamaras). Check in daily to see who is featured next!