April 17, 2014
The Old America

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)


Krapf Author Photo

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!

Posted In: Poetry

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