The Dirt Road

Spewing hazy dust clouds
High up in the air
The car rattles down the dirt road, buckling
Under the weight of six

Three children squished together in the backseat
Rosy cheeked and wide smiled

A man and wife sitting up front
Hoping for work
And letting their kids have full bellies

One tired and thin man sitting in the back,
Weary and sick of searching
Wanting to quit
Telling the two to jus’ give up
Still searching
Far, far down the dusty road.

Hey, look, it’s a cotton farm
The man in the front eases out of the car
Knocks on the door

Got no work lef’?
The once-over on both sides

Twenty cents an hour, take or leave
The man with a shiny fedora says
The haggard man with dirty hair
Looks him straight in the eyes
Face inscrutable for just a moment
A back turned the next moment
Down the worn steps
Back to the car

Spewing hazy dust clouds
High up in the air
The car rattles down the dirt road, buckling
Under the weight of six

Hey, here’s one of ‘em Hoovervilles
Let’s set here a while
And if’s it rains
The men’s shirts are draped on the trees
Thar’ be our roof

Folks, got no extra food?
Sorry, we all goners.
So to bed with no dinner
No lunch too
Don’t got no breakfast either.

Ma, I’m hungry
One tiny whimper
Sorry Georgie, Pa’s lookin’ for’th food
I can look too
I can search for food
It ain’t that simple, child
Okay, ma. But I’m hungry.

Back up the next morning
Searching.

Spewing hazy dust clouds
High up in the air
The car rattles down the dirt road
Under the weight of six

Three children sitting together in the backseat
Leaning on each other
‘M tired and hungry, pa
Just one quiet whisper
No answer

A man and wife sitting up front
Hoping for work
And letting their kids have full bellies

One tired and thin man sitting in the back,
Weary and sick of searching
Wanting to quit
Telling the two to jus’ give up
Still searching.
Far, far down the dusty road

Hey, look, it’s a fruit farm
The man in the front eases out of the car
Knocks on the door

Got no work lef’?
The once-over on both sides

Five apples a day, take or leave
The man in new overalls says
The haggard man with dirty rags
Looks him straight in the eyes
Face inscrutable for just a moment
And the next moment panting, a man laying at his feet
Knocked cold.

Daddy?
A muffled gasp from the car
Shhh, son, shhh. Ma, cover Travis’ eyes
The hands are placed over the child’s eyes, followed by the words
Git, Charles. Git. Git’n the car.
Let’s a go.

Spewing hazy dust clouds
High up in the air
The car rattles down the dirt road
Under the weight of six

Hey, pa?
What, Lily?
Georgie’s lookin’ too shushed
Ma’s head cranes over the seat.
Georgie? Georgie, sweetie?
No answer.

Spewing hazy dust clouds
High up in the air
The car rattles down the dirt road
Under the weight of five

A little mound left behind
Hiding a painfully emaciated
Body
Words penned by a stick
Etched on the lumpy dirt
Heer lys mie son… hada blesd six yeers…

One tired old man sick of searching
Two tired and hungry children
A man and wife losing hope

Traveling down the dirt road
Looking for the work
To feed what’s left of their family
But meeting no good work

So spewing hazy dust clouds
High up in the air
The car rattles down the dirt road
Five sitting in it

Searching

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