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« Chemo is Palliative, not Curative (John Ballard) | Main | Voting About Life and Death (John Ballard) »

October 27, 2012


Well, you told a story and a touching one too. Who was the man going to look for?

If you were to provide a title at this late date, what would you call the poem?

Love the "pinen" and the "picanen." :-)

Thanks. And thanks for the questions, too.

As I said, this was written when I was still in high school and even now, two days later from when I came across it, I still have only vague memories how it came about. My maternal grandmother was alive at the time but about to be admitted to a nursing home for the remaining year of her life. I'm sure the story derived from something she was reminiscing about and as a teen I was listening and trying to envision as she spoke.

The names Cass and Sandra are obviously derived from that of the prophetess I had learned about in school. They were not only black but desperately poor, perhaps freed slaves or sharecroppers, dependent on a well-established Virginia family which prided itself in the kind of noblesse oblige charity for the poor which was the only hope of security for those at the very bottom of the social and economic ladder.

Apparently someone known to Sandra and Cass was able to escape the cycle of poverty in which they were still trapped. It may have been a sibling, cousin or other acquaintance more secure and able to loan them enough to get by until they could repay him, the farming equivalent of a payday loan.

I can envision my grandmother's telling this story with the same detachment that she later wrote from the nursing home that "We have white help here. I think in the kitchen we have colored help." Those were the matter-of-fact remarks of her generation that we know now are clearly racist. But to her they were descriptive, not demeaning. As the story-teller she would have been in the household of what she called "the old home place." As the listener I was imagining both sides of the story.

Within two years of when this was written I would be in the midst of the civil rights, anti-war and "women's lib" movements, coming home from school one summer to have the local draft board officially reclassify me from 1-A to 1-A-O (non-combatant) and drafted into the Army in the fall of 1965. Those were turbulent years for everyone.

I'm still trying to come up with a suitable title, something that reflects changing generational and social echoes in two or three words. Anything will do. The content is what drives the poem for me.

By some bizarre intersection of events this post, dated October 27, appeared just a few days ahead of Hurricane Sandy, which bore the same name as one of the figures in the poem.
Her name and that of the other figure derived from the name of Cassandra, prophetess of warnings of dreadful future events.
I made no connection until I came across this post...
Will Sandy Be Short For Cassandra, Another Warning We Ignore?
...which casts Hurricane Sandy as a warning about the consequences of climate change.

So was this post a warning of a coming hurricane?
There is no connection, of course.
But had I failed to note this link I would always wish that I had.

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