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  • Finally I Asked, and: From Her White Knuckles, and: On the Road, and: Paradise on the Niobrara, and: My Father Argued with My Mother, and: Walking the Baby, and: For My Body, and: Alone
  • Marjorie Saiser (bio)

Finally I Asked

Finally I asked her if I could carrywhat she carried, part of it,and she gave over a brown paper bag.

She leaned against the side of the houseand looked at me, steady.Her eyes are what I remember

and the incredible weight of the sack.Nobody needs this, I say.We'll leave it here,

right at the corner.We'll never miss it,this lead and feathers combo,

this cockamamie shieldwe hold before our breasts.Can I convince myself?

Her eyes do not changefrom watchful. Mine,from her angle, must be the same. [End Page 54]

From Her White Knuckles

From her white knuckles I learnedto hold onto fear as if it had value,

as if it were a calfat the end of a rope.

From her stories I learnedthat a plain vanilla life

must be frosted thick with icing,must be sliced,

laid on your best plateand sprayed with fake whipped cream.

From her silences I learnedthat small injuries are rubies

to be polished and set into a crown.Once you learn this, you know it for a long time.

From himlate

stepping over the threshold of the back doorin his old work boots,

I learned that tools are faithful,that work is good.

Work is a totem pole you carve and carvea lifetime [End Page 55]

into a tall column with staring eyesand fierce faces,

larger and more colorfulthan your own.

On the Road

My father knew of a store on the highwaywhere they sold good bolognaso we stopped there-what is betterthan a working man on vacation?

It was better than it should be, all of it:the road and the car,the land rolling by the windows,buckskin horses small in the great hot field,

the shine of my young mother's handcutting the bologna with a jackknife,the tips of her fingers placing a circle of meaton the cracker, placing a crumble of cheese,

a woman laughing,a man in love, driving,his mouth open, his tonguereceiving the wafer from her hand. [End Page 56]

Paradise on the Niobrara

The beef and potatoes on her platematched the beef and potatoes on mine.Her hands and her face the family dog licked,same as mine. Someone brushed her hair, brushed mine.Blizzard after blizzard we shrugged into dark coats and ratty  bootsand walked into the tedious cold.

Same this, same that, she tells me,but every damn thing different just the same.You call that loving, she says,that was crazy making, that was crap.There you go, looking at the skyline,singing with the chorus, but I had a solo.I flew in close to the hipbones of the buildings,my fists like rocks, my stomach empty.

My Father Argued with My Mother

He said Why don't you want to talk about it?and the straight line of her lips saidshe had said all she was going to say,

and her flat back in her green sweater saidthat was all he was going to hear from her.He said he couldn't win. [End Page 57]

I kept thinking somebody could winbut I couldn't find the starting line in that house.All week I couldn't find the flags

or the silver trophy or the posted rules of the game.I found my bedroom and I found a mapwith crooked blue lines flowing east.

Child, go out the front door.Find the wind; let it blow your hair across your facebecause all night

the wind has been talking, all night pleading,promising never againpromising always always

and sometimes with little pieces of sleettouching and touchingthe smooth cool cheek of the window.

Walking the Baby

My mother picked up a little piece of clotted blood,wiped it from the floor with a...


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