When Dogwoods Bloom

When Dogwoods Bloom
for the Arkansas Folk Festival

On Mountain View’s courtsquare this past weekend,
a fiddler sat and played a song of choice.
He tapped his foot in rhythm to pretend,
once more, that he could hear his darling’s voice.
Oh, hold me close before you must depart,
she whispered in the autumn mountain air.
Though drums of war beat louder than his heart,
he made a promise on that old courtsquare.



He said he would return when dogwoods bloom,
then marched to rhythm of his country’s call
and often felt that he would meet his doom
but he returned a hero that next fall.
The dogwood blooms had fallen off and died
and buried there beneath them lay his bride.

The man who tapped his foot would try to smile
each time he moved his bow to make a tune.
He watched the couples dressed in Ozark style
as feet would dance in springtime afternoon.
The sight of dogwood blooms, the music flow,
the tangy taste of sugared lemonade—
oh memories, how bittersweet they grow
as wagons roll to start the grand parade.
His country’s flag waves highest on this day.
He shuts his eyes and no one else can see
the tears that never fully wash away
his deepest hurt, his pride, his loyalty.
The dogwood blooms had fallen off and died
and buried there beneath them lay his bride.

(These are the first two stanzas of a longer poem)

© 2014 Freeda Baker Nichols


Joseph Comes Home

The news spread like discovering diamonds–
Tab and Sue’s boy was coming home!
He stayed in the South Pacific when the war
ended — that great war — the war that took the
Ellington’s other sons before the bomb dropped.
Their boys grew up on the farm, all five of them,
and they were tough as timber rattlers.  Uncle Sam
was proud to get them when all but the youngest
joined up.  Not quite eighteen, Joseph worked
on the farm. Ed, the oldest, died saving his squad
leader. James died at Normandy. Later, the
black-edged letters told the fate of Al and Silas.
Joe joined the Navy. His folks gave up the farm and
moved into town. When the war ended, they longed
to see their one remaining son. He didn’t return.

The gray in Sue’s hair made her old. Yes, it was
the gray that made her old — it was not her grieving
for her sons because . . . they still played at her feet.  Tab
spent most of his time outside, feeding the birds.  His
shoulders stooped. He heard the good news. His son
was coming home. Why should that matter now?  Then
Tab saw him on the walk, a woman with slanted eyes
beside him, a baby in her arms. Four small boys behind
them. Joseph bear-hugged his father and asked, “Where’s
Mom?” Sue came running, and Joseph took her hand,
“Mom, meet my wife and your grandsons. This one’s Ed
and here’s James, Al and Silas. That’s Joseph.” Sue’s eyes
shone. She touched the hands that held the baby, and
smiling, said, “Welcome home.”

Copyright 2013, Freeda Baker Nichols