Midwestern Memories

The Prairie: A 20th Century Pastoral
Our backyard provided a parade ground
for ring-necked pheasants and their young,
while we shared the prairie with rabbits,
gophers, field mice, meadowlarks, and snakes.

We built forts and played hide-’n-seek
in the tall grasses, collected milkweed pods,
picked bouquets of Queen Anne’s lace, and
pricked our fingers pulling off stubborn burrs.

We knew garter snakes didn’t bite, raspberries
at the creek were sweet; we hated scraping
mud off our shoes after a hard rain, but
the next day we headed back into the muck.

With the War, empty basements for homes,
never finished, dotted the prairie. Older boys
commandeered them, licking us with sticks
until we’d jump, sometimes into knee-deep water.

We’d huddle in damp corners, shut our eyes,
and listen for BBs whizzing by, while
along the rim, the bullies whooped and hollered.
We knew if we didn’t cry out or beg them to stop,

they’d eventually lose interest and run off.
No matter the humiliation, or the scolding we got
for coming home late for supper, we never told.
We just waited our turn to be bad, and bold.

Ordering Information

Kathy Nelson’s review of Midwestern Memories can be found at Wild Goose Review.

Nancy Scott takes us to Middle America’s core in the middle of the last century and to the core of a child’s struggle to transcend isolation fostered by the times and paralleled by a family’s impending dissolution. While the setting for these poems is specific to an area and an era, Scott’s words ring with universal themes: the darkness of war, parental pressure for children to succeed, indulgence combined with emotional abandonment.  Scott describes a world replete with frustration and longing across the generations. With exquisite recall, the poet tells tales with verbal images that delight and educate readers. She surrounds players in these dramas with landmarks and flavors that formed the collage of her young life: rail yards that housed vagrants, Chicken Paprikash that defined a devoted caregiver, repeated summers in the Northwoods, and the ubiquitous Burma Shave messages that dotted the landscape. Midwestern Memories is Everyman’s geography.

Gail Fishman Gerwin, author of Dear Kinfolk, (ChayaCairn Press)

When one thinks of “Midwestern Memories” one might imagine peaceful prairies and reflections on a simpler time.  Not the case in this rich and complex collection from Nancy Scott.  Although idyllic landscapes are often in the background, the foreground is drenched in the shadow of War where child’s play consists of boys tormenting young girls:  We’d huddle in damp corners, shut our eyes,/ and listen for BBs whizzing by, while/ along the rim the bullies whooped and hollered.  As these war games rage in the fields, a war far more damning rages in the home.  Nancy takes the reader on a sometimes harrowing, sometimes humorous journey on a young woman’s quest for truth about family, love, and identity.

Susan Gerardi Bello

Copyright Nancy Scott, 2014, ISBN-13: 978-0615923680, 66 pages, $14.95, Aldrich Press, Hemet, CA.