Cotton tales

Cotton in the fields
reminds me of Granddaddy,
his recollections…

farm community
in friendly competition
out picking all day

he would pick the most,
winning proud recognition
when his load was weighed

the landowners then
permitted his returning
after the harvest

to strip the remnants
for himself, gleaning enough
to buy shotgun shells

Cotton fields abound this season in eastern Virginia and North Carolina

Modern cotton bales, waiting to be ginned

Harvested cotton field, with remaining bits my grandfather would gather to afford his shotgun shells. He called this “scripping.” When listening to his stories, I could envision him in his youth, strong and determined, never complaining of the laboriousness. His words only radiated nostalgic warmth and pride that he was able. Eventually, he said, the boll weevil forced out cotton and tobacco replaced it as the community’s cash crop. In the Depression, Granddaddy was a sharecropper; my father was born in a tenant farmer house. Eventually my grandfather “couldn’t make a go of it” and would find work in the shipyard three hours away, staying in a boarding house all week and returning to his family on weekends…for ten years, until the oldest children graduated from high school and he moved the family. Farming remained his love, however, for the remainder of his days. After retiring, he and Grandma moved back home where he planted glorious vegetable gardens, one of my own most-loved memories.

The field

The field at the end of my street
where cotton used to grow
where morning glories of purple and pink
bloomed in tangled profusion
where the autumn sun
burnished the treetops
where myriad insects would chorus
all summer long

is cleared
is being bulldozed
for houses

I will never again see the cotton
stretching out like snow
or the morning glories
rioting in the grass

the trees will be obscured
if they are allowed to remain

and the great insect choir
of quivering magic-sounds
is forever silenced

I cannot imagine how the field
is feeling

but I
am forlorn

Cotton from my lost field