Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Michael T. Young: Dutch Hex Signs

Whatever great, great grandmother knew
she could only speak in Pennsylvania Dutch.
 
Her descendants, on nights around the kitchen table, 
told the one story remembered about her: 
how she stood at the banister, yelling something 
at the kids, even though they couldn’t understand. 
 
I picture her short as all the ladies in our family, 
short as I am. I see her leaning as into a heavy wind, 
wearing a greasy apron stenciled with a red Dutch 
floral pattern, and her dry, thinning hair in a bun. 
 
I hold this image close because there are no pictures, 
and what I have, shoves up from my imagination 
refusing its ignorance, conjuring a composite 
from my living grandmothers, from trips to antique shops 
where Amish farmers parked buggies in lots 
alongside cars, and hitched their horses to fence posts. 
 
They spoke a language that smelled of horsehair
and tasted of apple butter and red beet eggs, 
a language secluded, and remote as a dream, 
traces of it threaded through me of how to say 
“thunderstorm” or ask, “Can you catch flies?” 
 
And now, even on days I’m fully awake
there’s this mystery that trails back to a barn 
decorated with hex signs under the eaves,
and my great great grandmother at the doors
shouting to me something I’m meant to do. 

Michael T. Young‘s books include The Infinite doctrine of Water (Terrapin Books, 2019). He lives in Jersey City, New Jersey with his wife and children.

Copyright 2021 Michael T. Young

This sign invokes Harmony, Prosperity and Good Fortune — The central tree design evokes the grounding, centering and empowering strength of the world tree. Trees are seen as both masculine (the trunk) and feminine (the long flowing branches.) It is surrounded by a star of protection in the color of the earth. Between the points of the star, the stylized wheat motifs bring prosperity and the three armed spirals bring the Goddess blessing of good fortune. (source: dutchhexsign.com)

4 comments on “Michael T. Young: Dutch Hex Signs

  1. Rose Mary Boehm
    June 4, 2021

    The interesting thing is that it’s Pennsylvania Deutsch (it became ‘Dutch over time’). And I can understand quite a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Barbara Huntington
    June 4, 2021

    Love this. My grandmother left her Pennsylvania Dutch family at a young age and headed west to teach on reservations.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lucy
    June 4, 2021

    Wow. I love the vivid imagery and how you try to keep the memory of your gg grandma close to your heart through your living descendants. Even if you never met her, I think she lives in this piece; I got emotional when reading this. I can especially resonate with not having pictures and just trying to remember them from imagination or in my case, my mind. I still don’t remember what my great uncle looks like, but reading this piece provided me some solace and peace. It’s utterly beautiful and raw; I adored these lines the most:

    “They spoke a language that smelled of horsehair
    and tasted of apple butter and red beet eggs,
    a language secluded, and remote as a dream,
    traces of it threaded through me of how to say
    “thunderstorm” or ask, “Can you catch flies?””

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on June 4, 2021 by in Poetry, spirituality and tagged , , , .

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