Valley of Dry Bones


December 15, 2012 by The Citron Review

by Lisa Bellamy


“Your ancestors are composed of more than vital records…Behind the names and dates are tales of love, loss, resolve and sweeping change–of history itself” – from You Can Write Your Family History by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack

A sudden Iowa wind blows Pa’s and Ma’s covered wagon into the valley of dry bones. Ma, so weary playing pioneer, snaps at Pa: Where are we now, genius? God, how she hates squirrel soup and hardtack for dinner, her blister-inducing sod buster boots; how she despises the ill-fitting sunbonnet—trite gingham—she’s grateful, for once, the wagon has no mirror. What fun she’d had, back in Furstweiler: Pa racing to her at noon, on break from the button shop, sleek as a marmot in his lederhosen, as she waited in their charming, dark Germanic cottage, ready for her favorite game: “Saucy waitress in a lacy apron pleasing her demanding customer,” until Cousin Gunther’s now clearly-hallucinatory letter from America…she lights her seventh cigarette of the day, watches a greasy vermillion sunset smear itself across the sky, pats her right pocket: Pa has entrusted her with a packet of tiny seeds of Platinum Lady: most delicate of the sugary corns, he said. She is terrified she will screw up, drop them for crows to gobble or lose the packet in a whirlwind; and how in the name of the living God will she even know when this “planting season” has arrived? If it arrives. Distracted, she almost pitches her smoldering cigarette into the brush; she knows she needs to get a grip. She’s already accidentally torched one wagon: for three days she and Pa sat cross-legged near the blackened remnants, glaring at each other, trading the last beans in a can, stonily debating pros and cons of the Declaration of Pillnitz, absent other amusement, until a passing wagon train carried them, discouraged and hungry, back to town to re-group, try again…Pa gulps, squeezes her hand. She forces a smile, but notices a billowing black smudge over the hills: Thunderclouds? Locusts? Her stomach turns over. Pa tries to wink reassuringly with his right eye—the left pinkish, still swollen after a scuffle with a raccoon over cornbread and stale pemmican, back in Ohio.


Lisa Bellamy teaches at The Writers Studio in New York City. Her chapbook, Nectar, won Encircle Publication’s 2011 Chapbook Contest. Her poems and prose have appeared in Triquarterly, The Sun, Massachusetts Review, New Ohio Review, Chautauqua, The Southampton Review, Calyx, Cimarron Review, Tiferet, and PANK, among other publications. In 2008, she won the Fugue Poetry Prize. She graduated from Princeton and lives in Brooklyn and the Adirondacks with her family. 


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