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December 9, 2011

Poetry Friday--Poehistry

Pie Town Family, 1940

Five clean-faced young ones
and their parents
sit for the portrait.
The oldest, perhaps twelve,
looks away from
the camera. Distracted?
Or merely not wanting
to be part of this world
where Mom and Dad,
barely beyond childhood
themselves, raise a family
in a shack with cardboard walls
taped, nailed, and stained.

Yet, if you look deeper,
there on the cardboard wall
is a framed print and
a Coca-Cola advertisement.
The makeshift shelf is
covered with a cloth.
Now seventy years
removed, the viewer
can only hope
that those odds and ends
of color against
the brown pasteboard
had been enough.

© Diane Mayr, all rights reserved.

Pie Town, New Mexico was probably one of the last experiments in homesteading. You can read about it in an article from Smithsonian.

I discovered Pie Town during one of my browsings of the Library of Congress's photography collection. The photos are poignant, yet also show determination and community spirit. I hesitated about writing a poem about the family in the photo above, because some of the people in the picture are probably still living! Imagine finding a photo of yourself online with a poem by a stranger--one who knew nothing of your real life and family.

This week's Poetry Friday Round-Up can be found at Read, Write, Howl.

Photo by Russell Lee courtesy Library of Congress.


  1. I would be thrilled to think my stained cardboard childhood moved somebody to poetry. Lovely, Diane.

  2. I think giving a care to those of long ago is good and your poem does that in its wondering about the family. I do think about those who seemed brave in their yearning for land, who gave so much so they could try. I like your question at the end. Perhaps it shows a small piece of caring that the mother could manage, and it was enough?

  3. That photo is touching and scary. Your poem captures it perfectly!

  4. Love the ending and the fact that you chose to do more than just describe what you saw. Cool poem.

  5. Thank you, Diane, for this thoughtful meditation. I think you captured the love that these parents blessed their children with. They took care to make the best of things.

  6. You captured a strength of spirit these folks had to possess to even try that life. The last lines are perfect.... PS - I love your haiga in NOTES FROM THE GEAN this month!

  7. Thank you everyone, I feel a little less uneasy about writing on this poignant snapshot.

  8. A wonderful tribute to this family and their times.