In The Time Of Sand

I came from the dirt
in the time of sand.
Picked from our teeth
before and after meals,
sand sifted out of the air
each night to clear the way
for starlight.

The wind howled at the moon,
the sand-drifts covered
loam, rocks, tarry clay,
and scratchy white caliche.
It often burned but I didn’t
witness the glow.

My cousins and I played
marbles, baseball, dolls in it
kicking the sand that filled
our shoes, stuck to our skin,
and more. Moving, it hid
the broken and the whole.

Blinded eyes knew sand
shielded  monsters from the light,
piled up in front of locked doors.
Gypsies stole the keys and brooms.

Coyotes howled,
tracked through it
knew the moon
saw truth but wouldn’t tell.

© Gay Reiser Cannon * 1/7/2016 * All Rights Reserved

19 thoughts on “In The Time Of Sand

  1. This has a disquieting, dystopian feel to it, slowly being buried by sand. Although you mention the children playing marbles and baseball in it, there is something cheerless and threatening, with that mention of monsters and coyotes. Or is it just that it’s a landscape so alien to me that it feels extra-threatening?

    • I took that symbol of “the land which we come out of”, from Heaney. He uses soil to speak of Ireland. I was born just at the end of the dust bowl and the sand was piled around everywhere. Vacant lots might have small dunes 3 to 5 feet high. As the poem progresses I wanted to point out the feeling of desperation and hidden troubles of that time and to allude to the White Sands nuclear tests which blew in and added to old sins with radioactive new ones. The cancer rate in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandle has historically been the highest in the US.

      I appreciate your comments. I never know until it’s been read if a poem does what I intended. Your words assure me I’m on the right track.

  2. You paint such rich and telling pictures, evoking moments Gay – a really delightful read this morning – Thank you

  3. How mysterious the element of nature – the sand, moon, wind but mostly the sand ~ It permeates our lives yet we can never fully contain them ~

    So lovely to read you again Gay ~ Wishing you Happy New Year ~

  4. This allegory works so well because the edges of it are packed with truth, reality, harshness married to a child’s perspective. My first response to the yes, dystopian feel of the piece was the Dust Bowl imagery, conjuring the scenes of great rolling dust storms blotting out the sun in BOUND FOR GLORY, & the scenes from the Japanese classic, WOMAN IN THE DUNES (my own review of it I titled SAND NEVER SLEEPS). The Great Depression & Mother Nature conspired to shape the psyche of so many survivors; this is a powerful, passionate, disturbing vision that you brilliantly shared. And, yes, it is so good to read you again, & have you visit my site.

  5. Children can always find a way to play, even with those piles of sand that left so many buried and desperate. I like how you started this with, “I came from the dirt/in the time of sand.”

    I was happily surprised to see that you linked a poem, Gay, so good to have you here.
    Gayle ~

  6. So good to read you again and hear your voice! Poems like this just make it clear how much you are missed. Dystopian yes, choking and almost claustrophobic feeling. And yet, children still playing in the sand as they have play among bombed out buildings. The first line truly sets the scene and makes clear your time and place of the you-ness. Glad to see you back. Please don’t be a stranger, although I understand why.

  7. Hi Gay, so good to read you again — What is the “land which we come out of,” as you quote Heaney in one of your comment replies? Not Irish turf but sand here, tough and cloying. “Some days it burned but we / never saw it glow” People fashioned of this dust appreciate how it hides “the broken and the whole,” shielding “the monsters from the light, / piling up in front of locked doors.” There is a dark finger held to the lips of this place, hush hush, the mystery of coyotes who know “the moon / saw the truth but wouldn’t tell.” It’s innocent and terrible and powerful and very much a gift to share. Thanks Gay.

    • Of course for Heaney, the soil of Ireland and the “Digging” he did with his pen was metaphorical and a reference to both political and ethical dilemmas for him personally and for the Irish people and then more universally for people of the world. I don’t pretend that this is quite that deep but it is an exploration of what growing up with windowsills full of sand, seasonal terrible sandstorms, and family stories of the dust bowl miseries including living in a “dugout” and its attending stigma did to a family.

  8. This has a lovely “down to earth” feel to it. Sounds just like I’ve heard the “dirty thirties” described. You give the feel that, as bad as it might have been, it was life…and you lived it without worry about how things could be different.

  9. A carefully sculpted poem, I could feel the sand carving through the whole feel of your words. I also felt the menacing sensation. A really interested read. Thanks for sharing this Gay.

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