the colour of our lives

poetry • celebration • faith • nature • humanity • imperfections • glory

Child and her Mother

ChildAndHerMother-DorotheaLangeYou stand at the fence
hands holding and hips pressing slack and rusting barbed wire
nine year old face and hands clean
your once pretty cotton print dress frayed and stained.
You look at the stubble-strewn earth between us
weary anger in your grieving, downcast face.

Further back, on the dry soil you stand on, and beyond clear focus
stands your mother;
one hand knuckled into aproned hip, the other shading her eyes against the sun
as if she is trying to make me out beyond the fence.
Of your father, no sign;
perhaps in the unpainted timber shed behind your mother,
or working dawn ‘til dusk
for the few cents it takes to pay for your food and some of your clothes;
maybe gone, or dead?

Only that I could bring you sixty years on
into my racing and disconnected world.
I would cup your face in my hands until my palms filled with your tears;
I would brush the wayward hair from your eyes and,
like a father,
hold you away for a time
from the hardness of this desperate place.

Inspired by Dorothea Lange’s August 1939 photograph ‘Child and her mother, FSA Rehabilitation clients, near Wapato, Yakima Valley, Washington’. In The Photographs of Dorothea Lange (K. Davis, commentary); Hallmark Cards: Kansas City, Missouri; p.51 (1995).

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