The Genius of Small-town America

by Norman Williams

Here our fathers stopped their westward push,
Not, God knows, for love of scenery or soil,
But because an ox gave out, an axle broke,
Or a child took with cholera or chills.
Now, their sons cross the fields like roofwalkers,
Chucking dirtclods at the crows, while in the shade
The women mutter of lost limbs and hopes.
Like a periodic curse, a drought this month
Has once more settled on the western plains,
Thickening the creeks, working into wayside barns,
And famishing the stock. On kitchen radios
One hears again the pulpit-pounding talk
And familiar promises of punishment,
That we have ourselves to blame for this,
Who lusted, craved and coveted—
But if sin lingers in these washed-up towns,
It could be only pride or stubbornness:
Each spring another crop of debt is sown,
And, though agencies attach the land,
Outbuildings, crops and unborn young, still
The beak-nosed men walk head-up and proud,
Convinced, against all evidence, that what
They've planted, built or reared is theirs,
And that, come the plague or Democrats,
They will die as they have lived, that is
In their good time, just when and how they choose.

please note: photo by Dorothea Lange


  1. This was very moving. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Powerful, as always. And I LOVE Dorothea Lange's work.

  3. Not unlike small town Ireland!..... beautifully written piece, cheers!

  4. A picture os small town America which is immediately recognisable. Steinbeck did this for me in a different era. Both you and Lydia at Writerquake are introducing me to a whole world of poetry of which I know very little; English and European poetry are part of my daily life; I shall have to go beyond my anthologies of American Verse. Any recommendations?

  5. Great sense of irony, that Ms. Lange! Poem is wonderful too--it defines an era.

  6. A beautiful coming together of some thoughtful words and a telling photograph. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Good morning from Athens,
    optained her book a few months ago and can honestly say, that it was one of the most impressive work ever seen.

  8. Strong and powerful portrait of that indomitable spirit of small town America.


Post a Comment

Hey, thanks for your thoughts and your time:>)

Popular posts from this blog

Saturday in CinCity. The CollegeGrrrl Guest Writer Edition.

Sunday in CinCity. The "Three Things I Know About Life...It Goes On" Edition

A Year with EB White