A Slight Depression By Art Elser

This grass-filled hole in the ground

is more a slight depression,

half the size of a grave.


A hundred twenty years ago

a widow and three sons homesteaded here.

Their world was beautiful.

Snow-capped mountains to the west.

An infinite prairie in every other direction.

Just a quarter mile east

a line of cottonwoods marks a small ephemeral creek.

A fading trail meanders down the ridge to the creek,

showing where they hauled water

those first years.


The woman boiled strong coffee

every morning for her family

in that rusted kettle sitting there

half hidden in the grass.

She washed dishes

in that porcelain pan

that’s lying upside down

shot full of bullet holes.

Winter evenings,

when work was done,

she sipped dandelion tea

from that shattered china cup.

The two rusted snarls of barbed wire over there

kept their milk cow out of her vegetable garden.


Did drought leave them no garden,

the mule and cattle dead,

unable to “proof” their claim?

Or did an arctic blizzard overwhelm them,

unable to pull water from the frozen well,

unable to retrieve food from the root cellar,

unable to save their animals and themselves?



Where did they go?

Why did they go?

Their sod home long melted into the prairie,

leaving only a tea kettle,

a porcelain pan,

a shattered china cup,

a roll of wire,

and a slight depression in the prairie

to mark their passage.

Categories: Issue 2 - Spring 2012, Periodicals, Poetry | Tags: | Leave a comment

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