He was just a Missouri farm boy
And she was an Okie girl
Prettiest girl he’d ever seen
And he was 15
In love with trucks
And the land
And whatever came to hand
But she was a woman
In love with clothes
And fancy hats
A town girl
Who lived on chats
Where her daddy was a mine boss
Who sent men down the shaft

He was barefoot and in denim
And dreamed of the big rigs
Singing wheels on the pavement
And long hauls in the night
She was a woman of education
Who dreamed a writer’s life
She had no eyes for farm boys
Whose future came by truck

He was too young

But the lost look in her eyes
Cast its net about him
And in the hubris of youth
He knew he had to take possession
Her eyes were a warning
He was too young to heed

She had lost a lover
And did not want another
Her mother hid his letters in a drawer
She believed herself forsaken
But forsworn, her heart was taken
And she vowed she would be true

She did not see him
This dark-haired boy
Who watched her every move
He was just there
Just a kid
Who hung around the exchange store

And flirted with the older girls
Her friends
Hope and Fern

She did not see him
Until the day at Monkey Island
When he rowed them all
Across the lake

Indifferent scholar
Who didn’t go to class
He spent his time in shop
He liked the feel of wood
Beneath his fingers
The smell of pine
Warm from the saw
He liked to bend and shape things
Make something special
Of timber that was no account at all

He was 16 that January
The oldest of his brothers
Wise beyond his years
The old folks would say
A little willful for a young ‘un
And not dry behind the ears
But a good boy on your side
On days when you hauled rocks
He set himself to get his schooling
Determined to graduate by spring
Determined to catch his older woman
And marry her by June

He won his place with the Seniors
And came along on their Sneak Day
Took a boat out on the lake
Struck out for Monkey Island
And dared the girls to come along
Up the channel of the river
Through the snags against the current
Under willows to the sandbar
At the far end of the lake

They came laughing
Fern and Hope
And she came reluctant
Trailed her fingers in the water
And watched clouds with clouded eyes
She was there but was not with them
And though the water cast her reflection
It could not mirror her complexion
Nor move her from her silent sighs

He had a wrist watch
He had bought while in the town
A treasure to be protected
From the clutch of muddy water
And when he held it out for keeping
Two sets of hands began to clamor
Two girls jostled with each other
To be the keeper of the prize

Fern laughed
And Hope blushed
Like Missouri primrose
Like the curl of coral
Fair faced country farm girls
With hair corn yellow and in curls
Two girls with bright eyes flashing
Fern’s were grey
Hope’s were blue
But the solemn dark-eyed woman
Was the one he gave It to

She looked up at him
This boy
Tall and strong and handsome
This boy
Who gave his watch into her keeping
A pledge
A promise
And the spark that flew between them
Kindled fire that scorched the land

Fire that would flame in anger
And in passion
And in hate
Fire that filled their lives with fury
And with drama
And with love
Obsession and possession
That allowed no other
in the circle of the flame

A lifetime

And now she won’t look at him
Wildered and wizened
Skin stretched taut on native frame
Eyes faraway and longing

And he will not let her go