In memory of my mother-in-law, Irene Helen Larson
Someone should have loved you
for all the wonder in your lonely soul.
I was too late in your life to be the one
to fill the role, yet in winter if I were visiting,
I would wander the house to find you sitting
at the kitchen table staring out the window,
robed in cloud-blue thoughts,
hands around a cup of coffee.
You would wrinkle up your nose, reset your glasses,
and start with questions
about our distance from the stars,
and other mysteries of the galaxies,
then you would turn back
to the glowing, wheat-filled
prairies of your girlhood and the horizons
encircling your North Dakota home,
and always, always, we traveled
to the dark sky of why
your first-born son David was killed
at age twenty-four.
You grew so tired from carrying him
throughout the house, you finally stopped talking.
permanent silence accompanied you for months
before your death. We buried you
in the same wind-swept cemetery where David lies,
and, much later, your husband Henry, who never
took you in his arms, or gave you compliments,
although at your burial he wept bitterly.
After you were gone, we heard
from your unknown daughter, the one
you had to abandon in North Dakota because
you were too young to keep her.
I had the urge, once I knew this story, to set
a bundle of prairie grass on fire and, like the Ojibwa
might do with sage, wave it throughout the house,
room by room, blessing even the smallest bed.
—Sandra Sidman Larson, Minnetonka, MN