Remember those dark nights you huddled near me
on the drafty linoleum landing under a yellow light bulb?
You whispered stories, while I turned page after page
to learn if Pa had found his way home through the blizzard.
We battled grasshoppers, prairie fires and scarlet fever
while Dad laughed along with Johnny Carson downstairs.
I gathered in your words like sun-dried sheets on the line,
followed your trail of black-eyed susans outside my door.
Years later, I walked DeSmet streets and Dakota prairie
where girls in bonnets and red calico pretended to be you.
I found myself on a rise above your cold desolate dugout,
leaning into the same wind that clawed your brown braids.
I followed a trickling gully past an uprooted cottonwood,
knowing you’d been here, buttoning up your innocence.
[This poem was first published in Connecticut River Review]