Kelly Fordon

My Personal Favorite: Donna Baier Stein

La Sécheresse

From Letting Rain Have Its Say, published by Kelsay Books 2018

One woman, one tree. —Anonymous

When Senegalese women

tend their communal garden,

they water vegetables

from a hand-dug well

one bucket at a time.

Their animatrice, or leader,

has seven children

but only half a harvest.

As she bends dry dun hands

to cracked ground, the Harmattan wind

peels topsoil and carries

her continent’s cast-off skin

many kilometers south.

When she gives the women buckets

to water the soil,

plant the trees,

feed the children,

they draw a garden—

full, green, and fertile—

from parched earth.

The animatrice, blowing life

into her disciples,

reminds them their tribe has a riddle:

Where does the dry season go in rainy season,

and where does the rainy season go in dry?

When they are silent,

she answers for them:

Into the acacia tree

evergreen, with pendulous leaves

and silver wattle.

It’s from you, she insists,

dusting her pinched breasts,

the tree comes; even to him—our tribe’s chief —

the tree remains a riddle.

***

Hi Kelly,

      To answer your question, La Secheresse is a favorite poem of mine now because although I wrote it some years ago, its message about the subtle, deep wisdom often inherent in women seems right on point. The women in this poem, in Senegal, are the ones who nurture the garden and the children, the ones who grasp something beyond ordinary understanding. They are the underpinning of the community while the male tribal chief has power in title only.

***

Donna Baier Stein’s new short story collection was just released in March 2019:

“Scenes from the Heartland is an unforgettable collection, as lovely as it is honest, refusing to sentimentalize, transcending nostalgia, and looking directly at the riven, triumphant, glorious hearts of its characters. Donna Baier-Stein provides a necessary reminder of everything we share, no matter how distant we may be in time or place.”

–Lee Martin, Pulitzer Prize Finalist Author of The Bright Forever

***

Bio:

Donna Baier Stein is the author of The Silver Baron’s Wife (PEN/New England Discovery Award, Bronze winner in Foreword Reviews 2017 Book of the Year Award, more), Sympathetic People (Iowa Fiction Award Finalist, IndieNext Finalist 2015), Sometimes You Sense the Difference, Letting Rain Have Its Say, and Scenes from the Heartland: Stories Based on Lithographs by Thomas Hart Benton.  She was a Founding Editor of Bellevue Literary Review and founded and publishes Tiferet Journal. She has received a Fellowship from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars, a scholarship from Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and other awards. Her work has been published in Virginia Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, Florida Review, Confrontation, Gargoyle, Writer’s Digest, Saturday Evening Post, New York Quarterly, and many other journals and anthologies.

www.donnabaierstein.com

Buy the The Silver Baron’s Wife