Civil War sisters

stayed on the farm

baled the hay

plucked the geese

found meadowlark eggs

when bringing home the cows


Brothers went to war

carried a musket

lived in a trench



but lived to tell


Sisters and brothers

halves and wholes

swore by the candlelight

there would be slaves no more


Summer of Pirates


It was the summer of pirates

Jolly Roger crew

set sail on the high seas

of Iowa grassland


Swords and muskets drawn

we plundered and raved

under the pirate’s flag

leaping from ship to shore

from the  old Navy cot

to the Walker’s rockery


I was captain

my two year old sister

the happy stowaway

content to sit on the meandering vessel

while others walked the plank

at my command 


We sailed for days

There was no treasure

only a map

tucked in my pirate belt

that led us in search of that

which we knew not

Summer of Pirates

Little Fox

At the edge of the cedar grove on a partly cloudy with chance of rain day,
a red fox came out of the fox hole. As was the custom of foxes, this small
animal would hide in the brush and pounce on an unsuspecting rabbit or bird,
mouse or squirrel, at times find a fresh roadkill or a fish by the stream.
Lately the fox had taken to hanging around the primitive shed roof shack
where I sIt at the window watching for its appearance; it curious and seeking food
and myself curious and seeking a glimpse of its sleek reddish fur and bushy tail.
Just as I feared that the fox was not going to show itself today, there it is.
Right there. See the red against the green? Look under the big cedar tree. Look
to the left of the garden. See. Now the fox is moving towards the garden
where yesterday it dug holes and chewed the bark of a grapevine.
We watch as the fox enters the garden and past the newly emerging pea plants,
the sprouting spinach and past the early forming strawberries. A tap on the glass
and off it runs.

Catch us the foxes,
The little foxes
that ruin the vineyards –
For our vineyard is in blossom.
The Song of Songs 2:15

Little Fox

Memorial Day Weekend

My sister called saying Dad is in the hospital and probably not going to make it. I fly home the next day, well not really home, but back to Iowa, flying into Waterloo airport on a prop plane and feeling nausea. My sister meets me and we go straight to the hospital. It is late at night and quiet, only the beep beep beep of monitors, smell of tubes and clean linens, Dad on his back and breathing. I take his hand or does he take mine, either way, he has my hand and holds it up and far away from himself just like he did in life. I was never good at making small talk whether people were alive or dying and now is no different.

Years before when Mother called me from the heart patient ward of the hospital, probably the same one Dad was in, she wanted to talk about dying, how people around her would die in the night, and she was losing her faith and I couldn’t help her with what little faith I had. I only could listen to her voice as it fell further and further from the hope she had always carried with her. I often regret that I did not have the Word to give her strength, that I did not know God to help her be strong in her faith. Now Dad was dying, Dad who never wanted God. Dad, who said, “When you’re dead, you’re dead.” Dad who never talked about Jesus or told Bible stories like his mother did. Who went to church twice that I know of, once when I was baptized and when mom died. Now he was dying, and no one really had anything to say.

My sister and I left the hospital and slept at her place. Dad died on Memorial Day. I regret I didn’t have more to say.

Memorial Day Weekend

Mother’s Maiden Name


Swanstrom was my mother’s maiden name.  Looking back into her childhood of old photos, memories from her stories, and my own remembrance, I know a few things. Her father was a carpenter and built the family house in Iowa Falls, down the street from the swinging bridge over the Iowa River. As a child she played there when the bridge would still swing. People would drown in that river. My mother learned to swim and how to be a junior lifeguard and a Girl Scout. She could name the wildflowers and learned to go without during the Great Depression. Her mother, Anna Hill, was a gardener so I like to think that in the summer there were fresh vegetables to eat and her mother made bread. I know because I can still see her in the kitchen kneading the dough on a huge table, the old gas stove hot and ready to take the loaves. There were lots of mouths to feed, a big family of thirteen children, same already gone away, some to Oregon and Texas, or the grave. Vera, my mother, was the youngest girl wedged between two brothers. I see her old photos of a tomboy, up a tree or doing sports, her doll rarely played with. I like to think that she knew of love and loss because at her burial site a man stood watching in the distance and never said a word.


Mother’s Maiden Name