Tuesday, October 21, 2003

#44 Susanna looked East [poem]

My newly married great-grandparents, David and Susanna of Pennsylvania, settled in Lee County, Illinois in 1855 where he had purchased acreage a few years earlier. He had abandoned a trip to the California gold fields in 1849 to choose the dark riches of the Illinois soil.

Over 115 years later, his granddaughter, my mother, restored her family farm home as a religious retreat center for the Brethren. My own family would go there in the summers of 1970-1983 for our vacations. I can almost feel the hot sun and wind while keeping an eye on my children. The view in this poem is to the west, but Susanna, whose home was a few miles from this place, turns around to look east.

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When Susanna looked East.

Remembering the mountains back East
the Illinois pioneers rejoiced in the Lord.
Now soybean velvet rows green and black,
converge in the distance at the Daysville Road Farm.

The black earth is rich, flat and fertile
and the azure sky seems to go on forever.
We love this view with the angry clouds
roaring white on blue like waves on a distant sea.

I swat at flies that buzz around us
while toddlers cling to my knees and tug at my skirt,
and think about how brave they were then
to leave family and all that they knew to go West.

The wind whistles through the tall pine trees,
and we pause to dig our toes in the dusty lane.
Did she, holding a baby, turn East
with longing eyes, teary for loved ones left behind?

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