It's how I arrived in this place. Dust. Blood.
Thin figures. Shadows stretched like bars
against a farm gone fallow. Gone dust. Gone wind.
My grandmother said, Steinbeck never got it right.
The place. The leaving and how it felt:
to be child in a world gone back to dust.
She'd breathe the dust into me some birthdays.
Or, when I'd come back to visit from college.
Until the dust stuck to my tongue, clouded my eyes
as I tried to drift farther and farther away.
She whispered into my ear the songs she'd sung
in the canneries those long hours she'd worked as a child.
Until the land had become me. No way to escape
the need to carry it, to tell it right.
Iris Jamahl Dunkle is Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, CA. Interrupted Geographies, published by Trio House Press, is her third collection of poetry. Her debut poetry collection, Gold Passage, was selected by Ross Gay to win the 2012 Trio Award. Her second collection, There’s a Ghost in this Machine of Air, was published in 2015. Her work has been published in numerous publications including Fence, Calyx, Catamaran, Poet’s Market 2013, Women’s Studies and Chicago Quarterly Review.