Thursday, September 16, 2010

Backbone

Nannie Tiffany was born in
Union, West Virginia September 14,1860.
Walt Alderson and Nannie married in 1883
and set out for a cattle ranch in Montana.


They enter that land
of divide and gulches
and build their home
at Lame Deer
between hills
feathered with pines.

A hardscrabble life
and a flame
consume their cabin
until it becomes one
symmetrical hill
of charred wood, ashes,
and a half-eaten meal.

What survived the funnel
of heat, looted.

Nannie and Walt
measure loss: spoons,
dishes, clothes, a stool
covered with coyote skins,
their beds. A cup
a friend held.

They move often, temporary
dwellers never staying long enough
to measure a tree's growth.

She learns isolation
with each child.
She learns to keep feelings
rooted in muteness.

At thirty-five her husband dies.
She does what she can:
runs a boarding house, makes bread,
keeps a cow, sells the milk.


Linda Watskin ©2010

A Bride Goes West (Women of the West)
by Nannie T. Alderson, told to Helena Huntington Smith, J. O'H. Cosgrave II (Illustrator)

16 comments:

  1. I like how you took one word, backbone, and developed a poem of power based on history. I really appreciate the second to last stanza. "She learns isolation with each child. She learns to keep feelings rooted in muteness." So much there. Fine, fine work.

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  2. Lovely and powerful if poignant images here that build a clear picture of life for pioneers. I particularly like the fifth stanza.

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  3. I love the last two stanzas. Understated, powerful. The title supports what's unsaid.

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  4. This poem reminds me of the work of Julie Buffaloe-Yoder, a published poet who writes of similar women in similar circumstance, only in the the South and you can find her here

    http://juliebuff.wordpress.com/

    I commend her to you. She is widely published I think, in many journals and chap books. I like your work here as much as I like hers, and as a raconteur I like her the best.

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  5. Christopher,
    Thanks for the tip and compliment. I quickly checked Julie's blog and loved the first few poems I read.

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  6. I love the way you picked up the words and ran with them. Your story/poem says a lot about the lives of the early pioneers.

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  7. I'm an American history buff as well as a writer. Your poem appealed to me on many levels. I especially like the last two stanzas. Very well written,

    Elizabeth

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  8. Linda, I love what you did with this prompt, the story you told. I like it that I cannot even tell it is from a 'wordle' as everything makes perfect sense.

    I wonder how many people keep their feelings rooted in muteness. Well done.

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  9. perfect story.

    well constructed words...


    my entry is here

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  10. i especially like the last two stanzas.

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  11. A well-penned look at history. Backbone, to be sure.

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  12. hello linda, i love reading stories of the ladies who came first... i often find myself looking at their faces, their clothes, their children, their husbands... you have brought to life a wonderful dusty past to consider and ponder as i turn the switch and light the darkness...

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  13. A sad yet hopeful story. I'm glad you took only one word from the wordle - and that one resonates with so much more than it describes. Wonderful poem about a strong woman; a survivor.

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  14. Terrific telling. While I haven't read your source material, I imagine you've captured the tone incredibly well. The voice suits; the words are wonderful.

    Recently read "Shannon" due to Dave Bonta's recommendation (it's about one of the members of the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery) & think you might enjoy it. I loved it.

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  15. Thanks for the recommendation. I just requested the book from our libray consortium.

    Linds

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