Two Poems

Immigrant Voices, II


Helen wonders how the trouble came;
she feels black stain of family sin.
It’s true we lived in the old jail,
But the kind of trouble we had
Don’t come from timber and trusses.

In our Chicago days, we were scorned.
No English, no decent boots, no pride.
In Poland we’d look at folks straight on.

Up north,  I fell in with a crowd,
but I wasn’t the only moon-shiner in town.
Iggy, Bushel, Stanley—hid their brew
fermenting in the cellar while I frothed
and seethed inside my skin.

She pushed religion, walked to daily mass,
gave her spare nickels to the church.
I kept my stash in the shed.
It worked better than them lighted candles.

Her big mistake was inviting the priest
to bless the house. A shame, I staggered in
when they sat down to dinner.
I saw raw hate in the faces of my sons.

She liked to blame Indian Nellie,
Who lived ‘cross from the depot,
sold everything wild for wine.
Sometimes blueberries,
sometimes other things, I paid.


Come Spring

I met Jack Higgins on a summer hayride two miles from this log home we built,
Evenings I stand before the field stone fireplace, where we tended our souls.
There was a clarity to the stars on that sure, crisp August night and a mangetic
Sweetness to the cooling marsh beds. We heard the synchronous clatter of hooves
And words born of new intimacies amidst the silent countryside. A chance
To sound a relationship unforeseen at the time, mine and his.

That night on the horse-drawn wagon marked the beginning of what I’d call
His singing period. His easing into song was the quality that attracted me.
In our early years, the rich low tones of Red River Valley rose over blows of the axe
And rattle of the antique push mower. I listened through my kitchen window
As an eager child clings to the magic of Grimm or Tales of the Arabian Knights.
Plaintive though they were, his melodies brought a sense of permanence,
Like the cries of loons returning to Island Lake. Now I know mornings in a marriage
Can never be taken for granted.

—Joey Wojtusik, Three Lakes, WI