Poetry of Kansas

The Ivory Box

My childish fingers ever itched to touch
That ivory box among her tapes and spools
___A carved elaborate bauble holding such
A Liliputian steel-and-ivory knife as tools
They might have made for Tom Thumb's midget wife.
Unlike the sparse possessions of our homes
Those early Kansas days, that mimic knife
Spelled fairyland and dwarfs and trolls and gnomes.
Sometimes I asked about it, not because
I cared___but that quick flurried reverent look
Of shame that spread my mother's rosy face
Would make me always vaguely ponder___pause
In bashful silence edging some dark nook
Of wonder children live in half their days.
When death raped Kansas of his cynic tongue
And high clean mountain courage, and the joy
Of me, my laughter flowed from wells among
The bitter weeds. Not folk who could employ
Much talk of such things, yet one day she told
Me with a flurried reverent look of shame
That this same thing happened to her of old
Before she knew and took my father's name.
I knew that she most likely never spoke
Of this: to tell me was the hardest thing
She ever did. In all those years incurred,
Those moments of embarrassed silence stirred
The deepest pain I felt___but pain that broke
My fever, cauterized somehow the sting.

__Margaret E. Haughawout.


Sheep's Clothing
Margaret E. Haughawout
Pages 24-25
(Pittsburg, Kansas: __. 1929)

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January 1, 2003 / John & Susan Howell / Wichita, Kansas / howell@kotn.org

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