Air Force Brats, Aroostook County, John Steinbeck, Limestone Maine, Loring Air Force Base, Maine, Maine Potato Harvest, Maine Traditions, Poem, Poems, Poetry, Potato Harvest, Potato Picking Maine, Travels with Charley
“I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.”
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley
New places and bases
Every two or three years.
Our birth certificates read like travelogues:
Washington, Alaska, California, Idaho
We were from everywhere,
For a little while.
Loring Air Force Base.
Nineteen eighty one.
Rickety re-purposed buses
Arrive in five am fog,
Loading groggy kids in flannel shirts,
Blue jeans, stiff leather boots,
Mismatched hats and gloves,
Too large for our hands.
Squat farms in provincial towns:
Caribou, Limestone, New Sweden,
The landscape of Northern Maine,
Ripe with French Canadians,
Large Catholic families,
Working hard to keep their homes.
This is what I remember:
Scrambled eggs in bacon grease.
Picked over two hundred barrels,
In one day.
Placed between our legs,
We were faceless kids
Picking and tossing
Newly flushed-out spuds,
Some tight and ripe,
Others half gone with rot.
Dump them into barrels,
Tag them with your number,
Wait for the tractor
To plough another row.
Twelve: my number.
Thirty: the number of barrels I filled.
Fifty cents: the pay per barrel.
A kid, a picker, fell asleep in a dirt row.
He was run over by a tractor.
Maybe that wasn’t legend.
There’s no poetry.
There’s no hope.