Straw In The Wind

2010-12-28 13.54.35The great depression felt
for thousands like an empty straw
and most men were grabbing for one
filled with a dose of hope.

Nearly every father on the high plains
felt like he’d drawn the short straw
’cause the fate of family and friends
was up to him, staring at an empty field.

The wind blew, picked up the dirt,
acres and acres of sand and straw.
It filled houses, cars, stores and everyone’s lungs
until clean air became the rarest commodity.

When that black storm Sunday came,
wiping out the first fine day in years,
it was a generation’s last straw.
The world had come to an end for many.

If there was air to breathe to stay alive
if there were jobs to earn bread and keep,
If there was straw to weave, and baskets to fill
somewhere else, then it became the time to leave.

© Gay Reiser Cannon * 4.25.14 * All Rights Reserved

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29 thoughts on “Straw In The Wind

  1. i’ve read about it – a tough time – i can not even imagine how much struggle it must have been for those going through it… very well penned gay

  2. It was a difficult time beyond what most of us will experience in our lifetimes. The despair had to be as foul as the dust in the wind. I love how you wove each stanza together with straw. Well written, Gay. 🙂

    • It was Palm Sunday. The wind stopped that morning. The sand settled in the house. People shook out the house, went to church, went on picnics. They’d had cabin fever hiding from the blowing wind for months and months on end. They were out in nature when the blackness filled the horizon and as they ran for any cover, the dirt filled their eyes, their mouths, the children choked to death, the cars wouldn’t start and many hundreds died, and those who survived called it quits. I heard those stories all my life. It defined my mother’s years growing up. She laughed at the sandstorms in my youth. She said they barely counted but in college in Lubbock we shoveled a pail of dirt off our window panes every morning before classes!

  3. What’s so scary about this poem — and true — is that same applies today. Hope keeps us in the fields still believing rain will come soon. No one can say exactly when that invisible threshold is passed, but at that moment a hoped for future becomes a sad thing of the past. Great stuff, Gay.

  4. We has a small taste two weeks back, of what I glean from you story: a week of Sahara desert sand coating our gardens, cars and lungs, with Europe’s smog mixed in. Eerie, but not as devastating as harvests and livelihoods being lost. You are never afraid of tackling difficult subjects with a deft pen.

  5. The great depression was a time of broken hearts and crushed dreams
    as people just tried to survive..This is one of my favorites of yours as
    you captured time in words.

  6. Wow! Just wow! That a simple straw can bring about such beautiful poetry and so many images of something historically correct! I am extremely impressed by this! Excellent poem!

  7. Our country suffered greatly then, from economic disaster caused by humans, and human disaster resulting from the implacable forces of nature. This fine and intelligent poem reminds that we are never far from the brink, no matter our pretentious to understand and control the world around us.
    Steve K.

  8. Like Tom Joad’s sister, Rose Of Sharon, you remind us that the Great Depression was followed by the Holocaust & World War, that global warming pales in the full spectrum of reviewing the 2Oth century, that our world today, caught in the chaotic grip of technology is still peopled with Putins, & suffers with N. Korea, and weeps over the unrest in the Middle East, still expects the terrorists to strike our homeland somewhere soon–a strong reminder of history as teacher, as mentor; thanks.

  9. What an awful time and conditions to endure. Your vivid writing puts the reader right in the moment, and man did I ever want to pack my stuff and leave. Nice play on the word “straw” too.

  10. stunning and powerful write. I like your use of straw and how it is strewn through each stanza. you bring the bleakness and devistation to life so eloquently.

  11. Yes….what Bjorn said…..Steinbeck…..I can’t begin to imagine…but it was real and the photos we have of it are breathtaking…as is your great writing of it, Gay.

  12. I’ve experienced the effects of the depression in my own mother and in the lives of so many elderly patients throughout my career…the hoarding instinct and fear of not having enough. Yes, this reminded me of Steinbeck, too. Very nicely expressed, Gay. For those who don’t know much about it, you brought it to them.

  13. One of the most powerful novels I ever read was Grapes of Wrath and your poem is another glimpse into that oh-so-difficult time in our country. For a while I worked with migrants in the central valley of California and the people whose family originated in OK were still poor and disparaged, much like the Mexican immigrants–still working the fields and living in shacks.

    Oh, and I wish we were neighbors, too. Tea or a frozen yogurt would be so fun. I would love to call you friend–of course distance doesn’t preclude that!.

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