A Few Miles Outside Warroad, Several Weeks Before the Fall | wisconsinacademy.org
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A Few Miles Outside Warroad, Several Weeks Before the Fall

Honorable Mention Poem from our 2015 Poetry Contest

Mothers make excuses, hardly doe-eyed but entirely well-meaning.
Their daughters aren’t wayward. Simply, they misplace their senses
of direction or heighten their prospects of efficiency.
Their daughters run errands, stop road-side to look at the name,
dead before their births, carved on a white cross.
The dead letters are illegible or maybe never pressed deeper
into the the juniper plywood than a ballpoint pen to a crossword puzzle
at the back of obituary notices. Their daughters go to the certain river
through the common chokecherry thicket, step, lift
their long cotton skirts not carefully enough over barbed wire,
rusted orange, at the old property line. Comfort to these daughters—
a clearing and the thought of something delicate from the glacial age 
warming under a noon sun, or a high wind rustling like rush hour traffic 
they’d heard on worn VHS tapes—they are curious to the woods.
Nothing frightens or forces them. Mothers do the best they can,
shaking off the sugar of a notion, goddamn, didn’t they almost have it all?
The husbands, soft crows feet at corners of their quiet eyes,
the ambitious sons with their long drives back to forested counties
from big cities, the fingers perfectly calloused for guitar strings, darkrooms,
harvest machinery. The good sets of pots and pans. The good 
sewing machines, the strong radio signals and loud speakers,
the twenty-nine acres with steady crops and summer gardens of just enough
for the whole year through if jarred properly. Hunters make shots.
Not wanting for mistakes or visions, they are steady gunmen
who would know St Hubert’s prayer if it weren’t for science.
All season, they see plenty of good family people drag dark weight
of their secrets to the brook. Scopes raise at soft whispers of leaves under 
some feet, crosshairs put daughters, not deer, almost in dangerous snow globes.
Hunters accidentally guard happily torn dress-hems, dirt
carelessly brushed across foreheads by slim fingers that clayed together
a knee-high Arcadia so many weeks in the making. Tomorrow,
catastrophe levels what is loved. Tonight—skin softens as mud
coils down the kitchen drain, skirts brighten with mismatched mending,
fables become plans, become night-long fires kept glowing from thin pages
of passages made innate years ago. Curtains welcome in moonlight. All is well. 

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Christine Holm is a Wisconsin native that has called Madison home since moving there to complete her undergraduate degree. She currently works for the Department of Health and Family Services.

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