Remember Arletta Dawdy’s poem “Clara’s Air” posted May 12, 13 and 14 in three parts? Here she is again with “The Apple Factory” which grew out of a conversation in the 1970s with an elderly neighbor as they stood in her kitchen window looking out on the apple orchard that backed both their homes.
Both the elderly neighbor and the apple orchard are gone now with the latter given over to a vineyard where the birds don’t come anymore because of all the chemicals. Arletta says, “I’m just back from there as our son bought the old house in Guerneville and is raising his kids there now.”
Arletta’s return to Riehl Life is inspired by a comment Jane Kirkpatrick, former president of Women Writing the West, who said of “Clara’s Air”: It’s a lovely poem and makes me think that you, Arletta, ought to consider a collection of poems like these that capture an era and a people and a journey so well. Individual poems may be difficult to get published, but I wonder if collections might not have a better chance? This one is finely crafted. I’ve given Arletta an open invitation to assemble such a collection publically on Riehl Life as the poems come to her. We look forward to more to come…in between the trilogy, of course! –JGR
THE APPLE FACTORY
By Arletta Dawdy
She told me her story on a fine spring day.
Across the long miles of all the Russias,
Into the Manchurian cold,
They went to build a railroad.
Raised up a native in Chinaland,
She asked her daddy,
Where is the apple factory?
Summer of 1914,
He sent her to find the apples.
Back to the Caucasus,
Where Grandpa lived to a hundred and thirteen,
Where fruit trees grow,
Where the family founded itself.
Homeward bound, an archduke died.
Forty-five days is a long train ride.
Making room for soldiers,
The apples turned to mush.
Daddy, what is a war?
Ninety-nine years and the lease was up.
Railroading in Manchuria,
Splitting of rails and family,
Lost addresses, lost lives.
For forty years they were scattered.
She learned the other war
Took Daddy and Brother, too.
Sister found her in harsh January,
To say, Mother died just last October.
But, what of all the years before?
And now she stands,
Looking out from her California kitchen
At her own apple factory.
Tangy Gravs and Red Delicious stretching
To the Russian River beyond.
And she remembers the flavor of 1914
When war was a delay in the timetable.