Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, GOOD-BYE DOROTHY GAYLE: HOME TO FARGO, by KAREN SWENSON



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GOOD-BYE DOROTHY GAYLE: HOME TO FARGO, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Mortals live by mutual interchange
Last Line: Drive to the next time zone.
Subject(s): Cemeteries; Fargo, North Dakota; Mothers & Daughters; Graveyards


Mortals live by mutual interchange.
One breed increases by another's decrease.
The generations of living things pass
in swift succession, and like runners in a race
they hand on the torch of life.

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura

The Powers Hotel in Fargo
Utrillo print of a country church in snow,
the dead eye of a TV,
a poison-green bedstead,
a man down the hall calls out -
you can smell the booze even in the hall -
"I just wanna li'l luvin.'"

I call the rectory.
A priestly voice humorless as lard on bread says,
"Take 81 to the road marked Dead End; turn left.
It's a dirt track."

There's a storm watch.
As I leave the hotel by the back door
the wind chatters the chandeliers
like some memory of chaperons' tongues
dusty now as the darkened ballroom.

We drove - mother and grandmother -
propping his drowsy head between us
as we sang him to sleep,
two harsh-voiced women off-key,
"Row, row, the bear went over,
Casey would waltz but don't go near the water,"
until he slept between the steering years of our arms.

A Jewish cemetery, then Holy Cross.
We're off the highway and next door to the airport.
Two firs and a dying elm
watch over the Lugars and Trautmans -
Dorothy 1900-1976.
Across the road a field
already fermenting with summer heat
furrows straight to the horizon.

I walk the ditch beside it gathering a bouquet:
white heads of yarrow
because it has followed me along the whole route,
a stem of wheat for bread,
a foxtail because it is a redheaded weed,
dame's rocket for beauty,
meadow anemone because it heals wounds.
Thunder boils in the dark massings of cloud
rolling down the openness it possesses.
I lay the flowers on her name.

Mother, I have to leave now,
drive to the next time zone.





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