The Mark, 1931
As a child she couldn’t find it—the mark
she knew was there, somewhere.
She’d crane her neck to peer
at the trellis and gate post and above
the dark slash of canker growing
part way up the tree. Each day
she examined each deeply
for the smallest charcoal smudge,
she searched for drag marks through the gravel
in the alley behind their yard.
Once she found two stacked twigs
and read it as a sign
pointing to the porch door vined in roses.
How else did they know to come
to her house
hat slapped into their palm,
asking for odd jobs, these
able-bodied men trying to trade
work for food, day upon day?
Her mother would send her
from the kitchen with butter on bread,
a baked potato, or piece of meat,
wrapped in waxed paper,
not much but no one had much,
for her to hand to a man just like her dad,
a railroad engineer by trade,
who in a nearby office
(she later knew) was letting
his employees go
one by one.