The Early Years: Collection


Looking at you and seeing
Your soul as black as mine
But wholesome in your being
Kind and loving, I find
We are much alike, so much
In fact, that it’s like seeing
My reflection in your soul’s eye.

And if I can love you as I do, maybe
I can see a little worth in me.

copyright 4/61 by Rebecca F. Sloan


There are some questions to which
There are no answers, and seeking
Is like scratching where there is no itch,
Or taking pains at peeking
Through a keyhole to an empty room.
A child cannot return to the womb.

Some things just are, and can’t be changed
By craving Truths for justification.
The searching mind becomes deranged
When futility breeds complete frustration,
And to madness that mind is ever doomed.
A dead man never leaves his tomb.

The need to know is not bizarre
For men born with the power to reason.
But men so often disregard
That they don’t rule the changing seasons.
A child cannot return to the womb.
A dead man never leaves his tomb.

copyright 5/61 by Rebecca F. Sloan


Bad debts,
Those old lost loves of mine.
I gave too freely and
Should have known
I would not be repaid.

The way seems clear:
An eye for an eye, a love for a love;
But I cannot hold my
Love up for collateral,
Nor be a miser,
Even though it means I’ll have
Bad debts again.

copyright 5/61 by Rebecca F. Sloan


Sometimes I get the feeling
That when I tear
A piece of paper, it cannot bear
The pain that must be stealing
Through each fiber layer.

Or when I pinch a flower
I feel quite certain
It also cannot stand the pain
And hates me for my power.

And when I see a fly
Or ant or any ugly bug,
I know they must be beautiful
To something, have needs of love,
And so I cannot shrug
My shoulders nonchalantly
And crush them passing by.

copyright 7/61 by Rebecca F. Sloan


Some stranger came to our house the other night an’ said,
“You folks busy?”

Nobody was.

Brother had just closed up the shop an’ come in to eat.

Sister hadn’t done a thing all day an’ looked  at the stranger as a
shadow passed across her face ’cause she knew she hadn’t ever been
busy in her life. Then all she did was shake her head from left to right
as if in a stupor.

Papa sat in his rocker, already half-dead an’ not carin’, smokin’ his pipe
an’readin’ last week’s paper an’ he said with a loud clearin’ of his throat
that he hadnothin’ better to do.

An’ there sat me, at Papa’s feet, so young an’ full of nothingness
an’ not knowin’ what bein’ busy meant.

But Mama was busy–in the kitchen, up to her elbows in dish suds.

Mama’s always busy.

Mama gets up at dawn every day.
She fixes our meals, washes our clothes, cleans our house–an’
I mean scrubs, on her hands an’ knees,
each an’ ev’ry worn an’ splintered wooden board–
mends our clothes, an’ she never, ever falters when we come to her
with big trouble, always seems to understand.

Mama is bread an’ water;
Mama is the sun;
Mama takes good care of us.

The stranger said, “I want to see your Mama.”

It was only a simple statement but all of suddenly looked on
the old, bent, ragged man as if he meant to do a harm.
What business could he have with Mama?

I shook, not knowin’ why.

Tears rolled down sister’s cheeks.

Brother looked from the stranger to Papa who had stopped
chewin’ on his old pipe  an’ stared at the stranger as if he wanted to
say something but couldn’t.

Then Mama came out of the kitchen
probably ’cause she heard the stranger’s voice
(or maybe to ask one of us to help her, I don’t know).
But when she saw the stranger,
she lowered her head an’ I noticed a kind of smile on her face.

Then she looked up at the stranger an’ nodded her head slowly
an’ was smilin’ wider than the whole world.
She looked at us an’ tears were streamin’ down her cheeks,
an’ she was still smilin’ when she left with the stranger
not even sayin’ good-bye or lookin’ back.
She just walked out that door without takin’ no clothes or nothin’
an’ the sky turned a color I ain’t ever seen an’ couldn’t describe.

Then we were all covered with a numbness ’cause it hit us suddenly
that Mama was gone an’ didn’t act like she was comin’ back.
We looked at each other, the four of us, all kind of lost an’ sick.

Mama had left us; she went with a kitchen full of
dirty dishes an’ the week’s wash ’bout needin’ done.

What we gonna do now?

Mama, she takes good care of us.

copyright 9/61 by Rebecca F. Sloan

Winner for Narrative Poetry in the Fall 1962 Poetry Contest at
State College of Iowa [now University of Northern Iowa]


Upon seeing purple swallows
falter and become inflamed
in crimson suns,
I see how I, upon
falling down through love,
become engulfed in
beauty’s holocaust.

copyright 6/62 by Rebecca F. Sloan

Winner for Imagery in the Fall 1962 Poetry Contest at
State College of Iowa [now University of Northern Iowa]


Samuel, on my deathbed, I will gaze
into your eyes and with a force unknown
to me before, will draw your soul with ease
toward mine, declare my constancy, condoned
so long by you, but which you would not trust.

In death, as if in life, I’ll dream my ill-
timed dream but be consoled because it’s false:
no dream in death can disillusion still.

If you’ve integrity enough to spare,
enhance my final sleep with Honor’s kiss.
In life I took no time for such a prayer:
please make your love much more or mine much less.

You didn’t stop my love nor take my breath;
but when I lost to you, I couldn’t run from death.

copyright 10/63 by Rebecca F. Sloan


When you’ve told the only man
you’ll ever love that he should go to hell,
the sooner, the better; the quicker,
the kinder,
(the further you travel, the cheaper the fare);
his going will only contradict
the descent you had planned.
Then you’ll find reasons to tell
why you’d rather drink liquor
to dampen reminders
that you should have followed him there,
than to admit it was lack of wit
that at first evoked the command.

copyright 10/63 by Rebecca F. Sloan


Quietly the days go by,
Yes, the days, the weeks, the months,
But more anguishing, the hours,
Each upon the other in some
Agonizing spire.

Slowly the seconds pass,
Each second longer than the last.
Tortured eyes look for a change,
Want the mind to rearrange
The molecules of time forecast.

Painfully the moments build
To seconds, hours, days and weeks.
I can’t find what my heart seeks:
Release from time or extra strength
To live these months throughout their length.

copyright 4/3/78 by Rebecca F. Sloan

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