August 1, 2014

Poetry Friday--"Boy With Coat"

Boy with coat in hand is 11 years old. Been there 9 months. Started at 50 cents a day. Now gets 60 cents. Loray Mill. "When I sweeps double space I gets 90 cents a day, but it makes you work." (Look at the boy.) Two "infants" appeared at the door, and vanished back immediately on seeing me. Location: Gastonia, North Carolina. Photo taken November 1908 by Lewis Wickes Hine, courtesy Library of Congress.

Boy With Coat

Ssh...don't tell Mama.
I'm not getting 50 cents
no more. I'm getting 60!

Ssh...we both have secrets.
She has her "jus' dreamin'"
book. I gots an extra dime.

Sometimes she shows
me her dreams in the
Sears Roebuck catalog.

I'm not showing my
10-cent pieces, though,
not 'til Christmas day.

Then I'm taking a pretty
page out of her book,
wrapping up my silver

coins and telling Mama
to buy herself a dream.
So ssh...don't say nothin'.

Poem © Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.

Margaret at Reflections on the Teche is hosting the Poetry Friday Round-Up, please stop by.

28 comments:

  1. Diane, the picture is so sad, and your poem is sweet. That dear boy thinking of surprising his mama. I love the voice you imagined.

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  2. I think eleven-year-olds are at that odd age that allows them to retain an innocence and filial devotion. Then adolescence comes and changes everything.

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  3. They are so young to already be men. Terrific voice, Diane!

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  4. And I worry that with the way certain parties are stripping away worker protections, some day soon, we will have children working again.

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  5. Beautiful poem! So unexpected paired with the photo. Nice surprise, Diane. I like the voice!

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    1. Thanks, Joyce. The photo presents a bunch of little "tough guys," but I chose to see their inner guys.

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  6. The fella on the right has a very jaunty way of wearing his hat, doesn't he? He looks like he has a story, too. I'll bet you could get a poem out of every single one of the people here.

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    1. That is such a crazy pose. You have to wonder what's behind it!

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  7. Love this line, "telling Mama to buy herself a dream." The voice of the boy comes out true in your poem.

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    1. I browsed through a Sears Roebuck catalog from the 1910s and those dreams were downright cheap--except for those with no money.

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  8. Love the voice you've given this boy--and the sweet ending. (But I imagine Mama taking the coins and deferring the dream for something her youngsters need.)

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    1. Of course she would! But the memory of the gesture, oh, that would have been sweet.

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  9. I, too, am struck by the boy's voice. So innocent and pure, yet experiencing a life beyond his years. Fabulous poem, Diane. = )

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    1. Well, from everyone's comments, it seems I've got the voice right! Thanks Bridget!

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  10. Diane, you masterfully told the story of this young sullen boy who has a powerful secret. I was surprised by the boy's gentle desire to buy his mother a dream. Touching poem!

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    1. Planning and anticipation goes a long way to making an oppressive situation more bearable.

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  11. I didn't expect that coming at all, Diane. Got to the end of your poem and just starting crying. Makes me want to give you (and that boy) a hug.

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    1. Virtual hugs are appreciated, too! :-)

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  12. That photos! And the last verse of your poem. Beautiful.

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  13. Count me in the "made me cry" club with Michelle. (And I'm a tough cookie!) I've been through Gastonia - so many stories in all these old buildings. Thank you for keeping the quiet moments of history alive on your blog....

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    1. They've done some amazing work in New England in renovating the mills and turning them into learning centers. Have they done that yet in Gastonia?

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  14. Wow...just wow, Diane. I've been in receipt of your two Emily-inspired haiga for several days--so sorry to be slow in my delighted thanks! Your granite lip speaks musically (I sent Robyn a robin haiga too!), and your fence one is powerful. Thank you!

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    1. I'm glad you received them, Heidi. They started me off on another project that I'll post, in parts, after the Sketchbook Project is completed. I

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  15. This series is amazing, Diane. I'm in awe of all of the characters and voices you are discovering with these photographs. Great surprise at the end of this poem.

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    1. I always used to scoff when I heard a writer talking about being taken over by a character and writing as if dictated to. Sounded a bit out-there for me, but, in doing the Homefront book, and this project, I understand how it happens!

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