Pioneer Children
by Steven Duncan

We panned
for gold in the
sand. The brim of
my hat stretched
across California,
outsourcing shade
to Joshua trees.
As the heat churned
through dusty porches,
my sister
curled into
a paper doll.
Her bonnet strings
hung crossed,
twill cotton
words we whispered.
We caught summer
off guard,
playing out a memory
that wasn’t our own.
Then came
plans to
pan for gold
in the bedtime sky.
That night,
our borrowed hats
were a eulogy.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo was taken at the Mormon Battalion Museum in San Diego, California, circa 2004.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a poem about a farmer’s hat I wore to pay tribute to my Mormon pioneer ancestors. At the time, I knew very little about their story; many were driven from their homes, separated from their families, and sent to cross the plains marching for the United States army. Some of these men were the first to strike gold in California. I appreciate better now why my mom wanted us to dress up. Back then, I just thought it was cool to hold a musket.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steven Duncan grew up in Utah Valley and served a full-time mission for the LDS Church in Siberia. He is currently studying microbiology at Brigham Young University, with plans to apply to medical school. His poetry has been published by Teen Ink and Rock Canyon Poets.