Iowa Writes

JOE CROWLEY
Hub City Home


I.                                                 
I grew up a block from cornfields
on a short street with no fences
in a small town that called itself the Hub City:
Shopping center for surrounding counties,
home to weekly livestock sales,
big band dancing Saturday nights
(country western every Thursday),
two theaters, roller skating rink,
Clyde's dime a burger café,
pickle factory, poultry processing plant, 
agriculture chemical company,
large lake, empty cabins on the shoreline,
boarded storefronts downtown,
multiple track Chicago Great Western Railway
and — hard times here, as elsewhere —
scattered campgrounds in the woods
for men headed west in freight cars.

The hobo telegraph rode east on the wind,
reached these men. Some knocked on our door,
asked for a meal in exchange for work.
I was sent to our back stoop, where they ate,
to sit with them, listen, fetch more toast and jam.
Mother hired them all, even when she had no jobs.

I.                                                 
I grew up a block from cornfields
on a short street with no fences
in a small town that called itself the Hub City:
Shopping center for surrounding counties,
home to weekly livestock sales,
big band dancing Saturday nights
(country western every Thursday),
two theaters, roller skating rink,
Clyde's dime a burger café,
pickle factory, poultry processing plant, 
agriculture chemical company,
large lake, empty cabins on the shoreline,
boarded storefronts downtown,
multiple track Chicago Great Western Railway
and — hard times here, as elsewhere —
scattered campgrounds in the woods
for men headed west in freight cars.

The hobo telegraph rode east on the wind,
reached these men. Some knocked on our door,
asked for a meal in exchange for work.
I was sent to our back stoop, where they ate,
to sit with them, listen, fetch more toast and jam.
Mother hired them all, even when she had no jobs.

II.
Then the war, Blue Stars in many windows,
here and there a Gold Star too, one for Seaman
Jimmy Palades, dead at Pearl Harbor.
A Blue for my brother, naval aviator,
daily prayers for close cousins paratrooper
descending into jungles, army pilot
flying missions over Germany,
marine on strange-named island beaches.
Troop trains at the local station,
the good word heard by telegraph again:
trays of cakes and cookies for the soldiers,
a picture of my sister, 18, in a swimsuit,
passed around by me, penny a peek,
my patriotic contribution. And the wars
we waged on Seventh Avenue,
big battle in Sammy Schnitker's back yard.
I earned a purple heart there, chasing Huns.
                                                                                 
                                                                                 
Too soon, my twelfth birthday looming, the war
almost over, my parents, following the fashion
of the time, packed up, left the Hub City,
moved us to southern California, a house
like all the others, fit in amid fences, and inhabited
by a homesickness that, a year later, took us home.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


JOE CROWLEY

Joe Crowley is an Iowa native, born and raised in Oelwein and a 1959 graduate of The University of Iowa (political science). After a career as a professor, author, and administrator at the University of Nevada, Reno, he writes poetry in retirement.

This page was first displayed
on July 24, 2009

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