Caring for a Hoosier
Remember it was an rooming house at one time
for ingredients, dishes, pie pans, string.
Think of if like Chicago or Milwaukee’s
ethnic neighborhoods in the Industrial Revolution
each group coming through the gates of Ellis Island,
finding their way to a place everyone spoke their native tongue.
The flour nestled in with baking powder and soda.
The measuring spoons and cups shared a drawer.
One shelf was all spices, whispering their secrets through
perforated zinc tops. Like all cities, things change, break.
The handle for the sugar bin was lost.
The rear leg gave in to termites or water damage.
Everyone moved away, and now the cups live
in cupboards, the brown sugar in a vacuum sealed canister in
a place called the pantry. There is always room for renewal.
Take the Hoosier home, go the back yard and strip it, stain it,
mend its legs and drawers. Wait years searching for the right
handle, the missing jars; meet a blacksmith who can fix the sifter.
Buy an old cookbook, look up the recipe for biscuits.
Put a jar of homemade jam on the shelf.
Listen for the languages that were just waiting,
never silent, never gone.
Derek Talks about Red Beaver Lake, MN
This town ain’t much but the mill,
bars and churches.
My dad says it’s Death:
heaven and hell all rolled into one.
Friday and Saturday nights are the worst.
There’s no place to hang out ‘cept the woods.
That’s where we go, is the woods.
Make a bonfire down in the ravine
and play music loud and mean
outta somebody’s car or truck. Girls
get down and dance around the fires,
and the boys drink and watch until finally
someone gets bored and peels out
and everybody follows. Mom doesn’t know,
but we race on the farm road way out
by Lawson’s, or if we’re feeling mellow,
we get high and watch the stars twinkle
like the rhinestones on the dress
Amy wore for ice skating. Her hair
smelled like ice after she’d been skating,
and I could stand behind her forever
just smelling her hair. And when
she’d spin in that black dress,
my stomach and lungs would whirl,
and I’d lose my breath for a second.
In the winter sometimes, we skate in the park
when we’re all fucked up, falling
in the snow banks and laughing.
Cold weather means drinking
in someone’s basement. Warm means
we’re at the lake or the woods.
Summer’s the best with the smell of the fire
and the girls’ teeth flashing smiles
against the flames. Could be worse.
Could be there was no place to get beer,
no one to get weed from, no place to burn
a pallet or two, or ten.
Could be that our folks would keep us at home,
not trusting we’d be safe. But I still wish
on a dark, starry night that I had
Amy to hold my hand.
Ticking is torn and stained.
Violets won’t even bloom.
Cream in the coffee curdles
fermenting like a hatred.
You comb my tangled hair after I
nick your neck shaving straight edge.
Cubic feet is how we measure life,
gathering dust like apples in the fall.
“Get off my land” painted on the fence.
Ask me once.
See beyond the dirty window.
Break my spirit like a china cup.
~ ~ ~
Kristin LaTour’s most recent chapbook is Agoraphobia, from Dancing Girl Press (2013); she has published two others: Blood (Naked Mannequin Press 2009) and Town Limits (Pudding House Press 2007). Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Fifth Wednesday, Cider Press, After Hours, dirtcakes, qarrstiluni, and The Adroit Journal. She teaches at Joliet Jr. College and lives in Aurora, Illinois, with her writer husband. Readers can find more information at www.kristinlatour.com.