From “OPAL: The Journal of an Understanding Heart,” by Opal Whiteley


My mother and father are gone.

The man did say they went to heaven

and do live with God,

but it is lonesome without them.

The mama where I live says I am a new sance.

I think it is something grownups

don’t like to have around.

She sends me out to bring wood in.

Some days there is cream

to be shaked into butter.

Some days I sweep the floor.

The mama likes to have

her house nice and clean.

Under the steps lives a toad.

I call him Virgil.

He and I--we are friends.

Under the house live some mice.

They have such beautiful eyes.

I give them bread to eat.

I like this house we do live in

being at the edge of the near woods.

So many little people live in the woods.

I do have conversations with them.

I found the near woods first day

I did go explores.

One way the road does go

to the house of the girl who has no seeing.

When it gets to her house

it does make a bend

and it does go its way to the blue hills.

I tell her about the trees talking.

I tell her cloud ships are sailing

over the hills in a hurry.

Some prayers you pray a little while

and answers come.

Some prayers you pray more times

and answers don’t come.

I have not knows of why. . . .

From “Opal: The Journal of an Understanding Heart” by Opal Whiteley. (Crown: $20. hardcover, $11. paper; 190 pp.) 1995 Reprinted by permission. Opal was born in 1898, and orphaned at age 3. She went to live with an Oregon lumberman and his wife, and lived in 19 lumber camps before the age of 12. This is the journal she kept at ages 5 and 6. Originally published in 1920, this version was adapted by Jane Boulton, a poet who, in 1975, discovered a previously published limited edition of the journal.