This poem struck me with its vivid description of the hard life that people during the Depression suffered. This is not just a story of the burial of a child. This is a window into the hardships of a generation of people. The landscape is drawn as a harsh, barren land that chips away at plows. Poverty is blatant from the father having to steal the wood for the grave marker, to the mother sleeping on a corn shuck mat in the shack that they lived in.
There is also symbolism in the piece of two-by-four that was driven into the hard land. It not only symbolized the death of the child but also the death of hope in their hard world. It was a symbol of the cross that the father had to bear, of his grief over not being able to provide for and save his child.
It is also symbolic that there are no words on the cross. It could have been that he was illiterate as most in his time were; however, I feel that the words were intentionally left off because this cross was a symbol to his family that their child was lain there. It was not for the world to see. It was for the father to know that though he could not give the child all it needed to survive, at least he could give him a proper burial.
On a side note, this poem struck me because I feel that all too often we think our lives are so hard forgetting what past generations have gone through. Poems like this are a type of reality check for me.