Golden State Boy, 1925 by Marilyn Westfall

792px-Worker_standing_on_a_ladder_leaned_against_one_of_the_dozen_or_so_trees_in_an_olive_orchard,_El_Toro,_California,_ca.1900_(CHS-1352)

In retrospect, the first photograph
taken of him, eighteen months old, dressed
in black woolens—leggings, sweater, hat—
posed upon a miniature chair

alone, exposed that he was trained to
listen. Eyes focused. Obedient.
Unsmiling. His feet, laced into boots,
dangled over acorns and oak leaves,

the pattern woven through the carpet
in the sparsely furnished parlor where
his shadow smudged the wall behind him
that winter day, the valley fog thick,

the farmhouse trickling with cold moisture.
Eldest child, he’d labor in orchards,
dig water trenches, treat rot and blight,
plant, prune, and harvest English walnuts,

inherit the family business
but envy his brother who broke bonds
to pilot skies like a peregrine.
His hands would blister, build calluses;

his fair face burn, brown like hulls, sprout with
moles and lesions. His portrait was saved
on linen cardstock, one lock attached
of his shorn corn silk hair, blond relic.

 

 

Marilyn Westfall lives in Lubbock and Alpine Texas, and has roots in Ohio and California. Most recently, her poems are published in San Pedro River Review; Weaving the Terrain (Dos Gatos Press); Enchantment of the Ordinary (Mutabilis Press); and are forthcoming in Evening Street Review.

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