Our First Family Meeting

Mother called our meeting on a Saturday in August 

back when we lived on the farm.

We were finishing our lunch when she announced 

she and Daddy wanted to speak with us.

Daddy stood at the window staring at the shimmering wheat, 

I asked what we had done wrong.

Mother did not respond; Daddy too, buttoning his cuffs, 

said nothing at all.

 

Mother came into the living room while wiping 

the back of her hands from the dishes.

She turned off My Friend Flicka and told us 

to take our seats at the dining room table.

Charley, my older brother, sat next to me, my two sisters 

across; Jerry, a baby, used a high chair.

Mother picked him up and said, Chuck it’s time.

Daddy turned from watching the hired hands outside.

 

Sticky hot, I asked if we could swim 

at the country club after the meeting was over.

Mother said…Jon, as of Friday we no longer belong. 

Holly spoke up, What’s going on?

Mother frowned, not sure how best to respond. 

She said, Holly, something bad has happened.

This past Monday afternoon your father got into trouble

and no longer has a job.

 

Daddy sat in silence squeezing the palms of his hands

at the other end of the table.

Wiping his brow and running his fingers 

through his hair, he said, I am so sorry, children.

Charley murmured to Holly, I bet it’s her fault. 

He glared at Mother and jabbed me in the side.

Mother stood behind her chair staring at Daddy, 

Jerry squirming in her arms.

 

Daddy studied Mother as she answered then, 

Charley, you should talk to your father.

He could be in jail today, but we convinced 

his company we would pay everyone back.

Kids, your daddy only wanted us to live on a farm 

and be happy, but now we have a problem.

Now we owe the families who invested in him,

who trusted him; we all trusted him.

 

Soothing Jerry’s shoulders, she continued, 

What we have decided will affect you all.

Daddy interrupted, Helen, let’s not do this – 

we can handle between us my situation.

They had spent the morning in their bedroom, 

the door locked, Jerry watching cartoons with us.

Now the heat of the afternoon consumed her urge 

for further conversation.

 

Mother stated, we agreed, your father is leaving;

he will move to the city and find another job.

Looking directly at Holly and Charley, she said, 

I need your help to get through this.

We will sell the horses and equipment in the barn;

the ripened wheat, farmers can bid to harvest.

Don’t you see, we must embrace another way 

so we can keep the farm.

 

Daddy, no! my sister Allison sobbed, jumping up, 

hugging Daddy. It’s all right, he told her.

Charley whispered, I hate Mother— 

I bet she and her country club lover are behind this.

Mother sighed. We’re done, she said to him, 

Holly and Daddy too, carrying Jerry to his room.

Stumbling outside, I cried, You’re all liars—

my eyes on fire, watching our fields collide, 

bursting in flames, burning forever. 

****



Categories: Poetry, Selection: 2010 forward

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