Sandra J. Lindow is semi-retired. She teaches, writes and edits and continues as the longest serving regional vice president of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. She has published seven books of poetry. Her awards include the CWW Posner Award for best poetry collection by a Wisconsin writer, the WFOP Triad Theme Award, two WWA Jade Ring awards, and the Wisconsin Press Women’s Award for Poetry. She lives on a hilltop in Menomonie, Wisconsin.
…………………To Miriam, on her graduation from college.
What is the circumference of change?
Measure the finite difference between
a blade of grass and a spring violet.
What is the foundation of family?
How many shovels does it take to turn a garden bed
four feet by twelve feet in the time it takes a robin
to fly from the cottonwood to the front porch?
What is the volume of two souls when the wind is blowing?
Factor in the sound of soup simmering,
the smell of bread baking, a map spread out.
Define the differential of green beans and snap peas;
Calculate the square root of a maple leaf
divided by the time it takes to turn red and fall.
What is the hypotenuse of the distance
between a mother and her grown child
when snow laps the front door with longing?
If a young woman were to drive from Minneapolis
to California at sixty-five miles an hour
would her mother miss her less or more?
Multiply the infinite quantity of love times mileage.
How many breaths does it take to let her go?
Calculus they say is the study of change,
I never took it. If I had, maybe
I’d be better prepared to deal with your leaving now.
At the Palace, my paper gown
opens down the front,
exposing me to scrutiny
in a rapidly retreating anesthetized world:
“Why yes, Cinderella, you can have a life,”
Grand Vizier Medical said,
“but first we conquer that cancer:”
two lumps in my left breast,
entwining secret metastasis.
“Bibbety, bobbety, boo, make it go,” I said.
But this sterile Kingdom
Isn’t Blue Fairy blessed:
No magic but the sticky-slick passing
of a surgeon’s knife, mastectomy
and the beginnings of a promised
reconstruction, an alien
gazebo built under my skin,
normal saline added in,
cobble stone mockery of a breast
that presses heavily on my chest,
hampering my breathing
and making my heart race.
“Take it out,” I said.
that the Woman’s Journey
may start with a maiming,
far easier said on the page
than felt in the heart’s center:
Heroism is lonely and hurts.
My old breast burned
toward inflagration. The fire is out,
but now that the parting’s over,
I sleep unevenly on a cold hearth.
Losing more than a shiny shoe,
the ashes of health darken
my demeanor, and I see
a briared forest path twisting
into impenetrable dark.
The North Wind blows,
an ineffable animal howl.
I clench the hearth stones
awaiting the Chemical Bear
to slash and shred my quaking house.
Zucchini, pared, seeded, chopped, ten cups.
Yellow summer squash works as well, but
eXceptionally large zucchini
Whales found wallowing under wide
Veined elephantine leaves, like
Ugly unadoptable adolescents can be
Transformed with vinegar, sugar, spices, salt,
Sweet sour summer’s sultry sublimation to
Relish when winters wither long,
Quiet companion to brats, burgers and tuna salad
Punctuated with peppers, and perky pimento
Opulent onions, four cups, popped from summer soil
No tears if chopped in the blender
Ministrations of dry mustard, celery seed, turmeric
Let simmer for one half hour, and
Kissed by a steamy sunshine kitchen
Jars scalded, filled and lifted back
Into the inveterate granite ware canner to be
Heated in its boiling hot water bath one half hour,
Garden goodness guaranteed when seals pop,
Food with fundamental honesty,
Essential nutrients from over abundance, made
Delicious through dedication, a history of
Capable hands, celebrated each summer
Better than anything store bought,
A cup of sunshine in every jar.
Woodland Pattern is nonprofit book center in the heart of Riverwest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We are dedicated to the discovery, cultivation and presentation of contemporary literature and the arts.