Mother of Water
For love, she found Olaus; two-day wedding, dancing the schottische and polka, eating kjøttballer, potetklubb;
crossed the threshold to that small house and, hair down, fell warm into his arms. The green earth ripening,
water flowing for hope of a better life: cows to milk; pails to carry; cream to churn.
Earth turned, plowed deep;
Mali and Olaus, a team: horses harnessed, hog throats slashed for meat; chickens
axed, feathers picked--
she cooked, baked, and cleaned. For love, birthed nine children, chewed a wooden
plug for pain, pulled a rag
tied to the bedpost as she pushed through blood and water, pushed until she pushed
into the mud and slush
that April, black cloak draped over her shoulders, riding the carriage, horse-drawn,
behind the hearse bearing Olaus.
Stjørdalen church: stern-faced preacher led her and the mourners in black arm bands,
a long line down the aisle
to that bald hill, the bell tolling until silent in cold wind, they stood where the stone
still bears his name: Olaus Hjelmstad,
stone-cold, and stoney.
She kept a calf tied in the barn, fattening for winter meat.
One morning she went out to milk, found the calf
strangled in its rope.