Monday, February 11, 2008

Minnesota is Weather

This year autumn is burning
into the edge of winter.
October so warm
natives keeep short pants
handy in the closet.
Whole days like Easter:
golden mornings,
gala afternoons,
the prairie dried into a panorama
of its summer color
and moons -
moons that stop your heart.

Cedar waxwings and robins
migrating together
but there are fewer of them
gorging on the tiny crab apples
and the delicate monarchs
on their odyssey to Mexico,
are smaller.
Is this the year of warnings:
pandemic influenza?

Here in our northern state -
warmth, color, melting breezes?
We're not accustomed to nature pampering us.
Hopeful we scan the weather screen:
snow, ice, thermometers below zero,
these are comforting seasonal familiars.
Is summer pushing into winter our catastrophe?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Winter Stitchery

Then I headed out leaving lazy daisy footprints
across park snow, dressed in blanket pants,
three pairs of socks, holding the impossible
secondhand skates, scarf tight as a French knot,
cap stitched to brow. Saturday afternoon,
flakes big as feathers sifting through
buttonholes in branches, herringbone of brush
tangles and the scissor legs of skaters.
The warming house smells of wet wool, wood smoke,
popcorn, hot chocolate, shoes chucked under benches.
Lacing on the liberty of blades and sailing
to the generous music, working through my ice patterns:
racing, dreaming, turning, weaving backwards,
holding hands, cracking the whip. Toes turn to iron,
cheeks to satin, trees fade into darkness
and I home to steam dry.

Now, the long and short of it,
I still enjoy a running stretch on ice,
freedom from the chain of heel and sole.
My skates are tailored, my car snow banked.
The suspicious adult who skates alone,
outlining the old dreams on a lake
where trees cross-stitch the ice to sky,
breathing wood smoke, vender treats,
feeling the good cold, knotting up time
for an afternoon,

Winter Poetry

February Sunday

Children are "down" for their naps.
The men are driving over a frozen lake
to fish through the hard ice.
In this house
dust hangs in beams of sunlight.
A car goes by
engine humming over icy streets
snow covered lawns.
My world breathes with the sleeping children.
Ghosts are quiet.
Sun is a narrowing parallelogram
on the painted wall.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Letter From Home

(This is a letter my grandmother, Hilda Swanson, wrote to my mother in 1947. They wrote letters to each other every week.)

Sunday eve,
Dear Lillian,
and all of you
This has been a wonderful day
cool but yesterday it poured
I've seen lots of people today
You remember Sheriff Pierce
who was shot a year ago
They put up a nice flag pole
for him at this side of the jail
Today was the dedication
just lovely
I sat on my front porch
heard the band and singing
over the loudspeaker,
people giving speeches
Mildred walked over to the program
but Gil didn't go
came by later so I made coffee
Don and Hazel go to the cities every Sunday
never come to stay long, it's a few minutes
always in a hurry and Hazel never comes here
except with Don
They'll marry soon
Gil and Mildred took me for a ride
this afternoon about fifty miles
they enjoy riding and time went fast
I haven't heard from Del and Delores
so don't know about Aron except
he isn't dead
Del's been busy three funerals
this week so they didn't come
to visit
I hope you won't be too disappointed
on your summer visit
The Sund brothers aren't keeping the farm
the way your father did
Seems like they had the right money
but no reputation
The porch is going
It's a good place, good land,
we don't have to drive that road
to the cemetery.

Funny how
farm folk never use the front porch
go to all the work of hauling out chairs
and sit in the backyard.
I kept after your brothers to paint
our porch and the furniture
morning glory looking nice every summer
but in the evenings there we'd be
where we could see the barn,
milk house,
cars in the driveway,
heavy shade trees,
talk to the hired man in Swedish,
round up our haying crew,
listen to whippoorwills,
watch fireflys.
I should have made your dad teach me
how to drive.
He kept the matched white pair
too long because he knew
my pride as the best team driver
in the county.
Thank God for Don
You know how it was,
He came in from milking one morning
"Mom, this place is too much work now Dad's gone.
Let's you and me sell
buy the Sander's place
on Couirt Street.
You can have some rest
think about it."
I didn't have to
"I'd be proud to live there on the square," I said
so it was all set by chores that night
and our place sold in an afternoon
you know good land and close to town.
I'm looking forward to your visit
this summer with the girls.