Saturday, September 3, 2022

3 Poems by Dana Yost

Wedding Photo

One of my cousin's children
dug it up online:
a photo and writeup
of my parents' wedding from 1959,
the photo showing my mother
at all of 17, smiling, blond,
glancing downward at the camera,
I wonder what was said
between her and the photographer,
between her and my father
on that memorable day,
between her and my grandmother,
who surely was worried about
the new hands my mother would be in.
I wonder if my mother had any
foreshadowing of what was
to come:  the five children,
the eleven grandchildren,
the cancer that she fought
for eleven years then finally 
stilled her heart.  Even the second
marriage after my father died young.
If she's had any foreknowledge,
would she have gone through with it,
would she have still
said yes and gone on to live
as she really did, with the good,
the hard days in front of her,
the days to be proud,
the days of difficult decisions,
the days of re-wallpapering
the big old house,
the days of sitting, worn out,
in the sunroom addition,
cigarette in one hand,
lighter in the other,
a deep breath,
then the inhalation
of menthol.


In a marshy field,
park management
mowed down rows
of sumac, leaving
the hard roots exposed,
waiting to die.
It was a way to clear
off unwanted bush,
I suppose, and a reminder
that not everyone
likes everything that grows
--some see a nuisance,
some see something
unpretty that they are
content to let wither,
then fade away.
Life is like that, too,
and I feel a thud
in my heart as I stand
over the field,
a loss, an emptiness.
Later, we travel
to the Loess Hills
where someone
is growing lavender,
turning its oil
into soap, handkerchiefs,
wall art, cooking spice.
A reminder that the prairie
gives life, often in abundance,
and my heart rebounds.
I buy a kerchief, wrap
it around my neck
and inhale the fragrance.
It smells like prairie,
but more:  like life itself,
and I want to lay
in the garden, butterflies
and dragonflies lighting
on my toes then blowing
where the wind takes them,
toward the hills, the sky,
toward freedom.

What Holds You

One of those days when you were sure
she was not going to live but a few hours more,
and you thought about your childhood with her,
you thought melancholy things,
you thought about her reading books
to you when you were two, three,
and the way that shaped the rest of your life, 
you thought about walks in the small town
under elm trees that later died of disease,
and about how she cooked you white rice
sprinkled with cinnamon, not because it was
a delicacy but was what she could afford
on your father's meager pay.

You thought about losing her,
what memories you hadn't yet
shared with her, what stories
from her own path she hadn't yet 
told you.  But then she woke
from sleep and said she felt
better and she lived yet another
night and another day and things
continued on, and you still thought
the things you thought, undaunted by death,
because you knew it was coming,
would come and then it did,
and you lay there next to her,
as if waiting for another memory,
yet you felt nothing but grief
        beginning its slow, long
wend into your soul.

Dana Yost was an award-winning daily newspaper editor and writer for 29 years.  Since 2008, he has published eight books, most recently last fall's novel, Before I Get Old.  He is a three-time nominee for a Pushcart Prize in poetry.  He has lived his entire life in the rural Upper Midwest.

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