This poem was one of only two published per year.
When it was published, the editor named it...
Rummaging through Aunt Emma's Photographs
Rummaging through Aunt Emma's photographs,
Antique rent receipts
(sister Janet had warned, "Save your receipts"),
And dead relatives' bones.
Harold and Emma and the front left fender of a '53 Ford.
Emma and Betty and an old Paint stallion, rearing
(before cousins Doug and Kay came along and made them aunts).
Janet and Emma and the giant oak tree in front of The Wolcott House
(before the oak tree was cut down and used to make crosscut saw handles, way back in simpler days when The Wolcott House was still only "...the house where Mr. and Mrs. Wolcott live").
Here it is!
A picture of my purported greatgrandfather,
Hauling rocks in a wooden wheelbarrow.
Great big Indiana Field Rocks.
Hand-whittled wooden wheels, wooden handles, wooden bin.
Profession: Rock hauler (1907 Indiana wooden wheelbarrow system)
He wore dirt-grayed blue denim overalls.
Brown sweat-stained white cotton shirt.
Baggy long sleeves rolled up short against his biceps, bulging.
Collar buttoned tight against his adamapple, choking.
Bright red-streaked purple tumor tomato-size on his forehead:
Shoulders rounded from a lifetime of backbreaking,
fingersmashing stoop labor.
Windblown dirt had etched the years of
bonebruising work into his tawny
wrinkled sunbaked face.
Aunt Emma's photograph narrated
the life of the man I had never known:
calloused years of a dirt life,
"He was a Swedish immigrant,"
Aunt Emma plops down into my
rummaging like a field rock.
"He never spoke a word of English."
His smile spoke American. I know him.
~Mark A. Rector