Mother of Water
She had a black horse named Florrie,
white star on her forehead,
too old to sell at auction.
They dug a hole
in the pasture; stood her beside it,
and shot her.
Every year she grew smaller, seated on that stool as if bent by a north wind,
gray hair drawn into a bun,
black shoes buttoned at her ankles. I never once heard her hum, but I sensed
a song inside her, through lips
pressed tightly shut; there was the slightest hint of strumming in her chest,
arms crossed under her breast.
I imagined songs from years of filling the pantry, cool, yellow shades that
stored her lefse and meatballs,
milk soup dumplings shaped perfectly as stitches taken to make her apron,
dotted-Swiss; she was neat
as small pins that stretched her lace curtains, pulled them tight on wooden racks.
Once, she offered me sugar lumps;
another time, she asked to hold my son. Mali, a small note grew into a letter,
pages like those from her Mother,
sisters in Norway; a brother’s rhyme about their Mother, how she whispered
from her grave, for her daughter
in Dakota, asked that he sing a greeting: poem found in her trunk long after
she died, long after she flew
back and lit that mossy mountain, a brook streaming below.
MADELYN (ROEDER) CAMRUD was born in Grand Forks and has been a North Dakota resident for all but nine months of her life. Her poetry books include two full-length collections by New Rivers Press and a chapbook by Dacotah Territory Press. She holds a master’s degree in English from the University of North Dakota and is a North Dakota associate poet laureate.