Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Fleur de Lis

William W. Fraker


The curves in a hand-carved fleur de lis
Crown the side bracing of a linen rack.
The French symbol on the heirloom documents
A family’s story from Alsace-Loraine.
Made out of remnants of packing crates
Used on the family’s journey from the plains
Of Dakota to Virginia, the trim combines
A carpenter’s creativity with the prudential
Mindset of a pioneer practiced in re-cycling.

On leaving Europe, this Alsatian family
Continued to migrate. From Staten Island,
They traveled to upper New York
In time for my great grandfather, Jacob,
To join the Union army. Following
The war, the veteran and his family
Took advantage of free homesteads out west.

Dodge County, however, proved inhospitable.
Old family photographs show the land
Surrounding the prairie sod house as barren.
Court records indicate they battled debt.
They also knew how to start over.

Using their only equity to swap
Their Dakota farm for one in Virginia,
Jacob and his family could have been
Identified as carpetbaggers.
Instead, a certain social leveling
During Reconstruction allowed Jacob
To gain local entrée. He quickly obtained
A job on the building crew of a new church.

Jacob’s carpentry skills augmented
The family’s meager farming.
His hands shaped the dovetailing
Of the sanctuary’s roof beams.
He carved his initials inside the church steeple.
He left the shape of his heart
In the grains of the linen rack.

***

William Fraker has recently been published in The Witness (online magazine) and contributed two poems to Muscadine Lines: A Southern Anthology.

© William Fraker

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012