My grandfather and his two teenaged daughters
drove a wagon to Dakota to claim a homestead.
I never asked how many weeks they traveled, or the hardships that they faced.
The young don’t know what answers they will wish for until it’s too late;
so only imagination serves to describe the heat,
day after day with no water except for what they carried,
coyotes, gray wolves and the glaring sun of the treeless prairie.
My aunts were just young girls dealing with the difficulties young girls face
in the sparsest of conditions. No mother. No outhouses.
The jarring ride—grasshoppers so thick the wagons skidded off the tracks,
and that loneliness of riding into
the emptiness of a strange world.
Now, I stand impatiently at the immigration window,
then the ticket line and the security line.
I empty pockets, discard water bottle,
remove computers from their cases, take off shoes,
raise my arms for the check,
struggle up the escalator with bag and purse,
find the right gate,
negotiate the walkway to the plane,
lift the heavy carry-on and lower myself into the too-small seat.
“Plane travel isn’t what it used to be,” my neighbor says,
and we console each other about how hard it is.
“Nine hours from Guadalajara to St. Louis—
a plane change and a three-hour layover in Atlanta,”
I grumble, and he sympathizes.
This is a rewrite of a poem I wrote so long ago that even I don’t remember it! The prompt today is sympathize.