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An Orphan Train Rider's Story

Mail-Order Kid looks at the orphan train movement through the eyes of one small child who yearns to know her “real” mother, survives a tortured childhood, and ultimately, as an adult, comes to terms with her past, her faith, and herself.

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WHITE MAGIC 
 
Virgin the road, veiled with feathery snow
& still, but for my boots crunch-crunching.

Chalk white the beach, curled right & left
a huge snow-swollen quarter-moon, mute as night.

Frozen the lake, its whitecaps fused
into a milky disc, no wet splashes heard.

Overhead a whitewashed sky, bleached of dusk
by an ivory wand.  I stop.  No sound.  None.

From habit I stare at the horizon now gone,
watch silvery dusk throb the creamy sky-lake.

Is Alaska like this, white on white on white
until one's eyes spin patterns on the blank slate?

Behind me I hear a familiar sound: geese honk 
honking in near-unison.  Their cries split
the silence: I squint, I stare.  
I distinctly hear geese, but they're not there.

I start to walk back when the first shapes appear:
wriggling black silhouettes in slender strands 
like ribbon streamers from a wedding veil.
Soprano, they call, and the answering flock, 
alto, tardily shimmers into sight.

And the cold snow sky & the frozen milk lake
& the chalk white beach & the feather-strewn road
are cracked by black strings of geese flying by
by geese & the boot tracks I follow back.

-- Marilyn June Coffey

    Published by The Nebraska Humanist, March 1991.