“You can have other words—chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ll take it.” Mary Oliver
Lori Hoevener, Ph.D., grew up in Seymour, Indiana. For many years, she taught English at Bloomington H.S. North. Much of her poetry centers on these two aspects of her life: growing up in rural Indiana and working with high school students. Her poem “Writing” recently appeared in The Ryder magazine.
Welcome to the Poets Weave, I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Lori, what poems have you brought for us today?
Part A. Do they even know who I am?
Such a long, cold, chilly life
Out there alone on the farm.
Plastic covering the living room furniture
Where no one ever sat,
And little living ever occurred.
Pretending my mother did not exist,
Despising your son’s decision to marry.
And the children?
Not a touch for either of us.
No birthdays, no Christmases, no celebrations
And money was definitely not the issue.
Green stamps procured what few items furnished the kitchen
With its sour tastes and smells.
Sunken pies shrunk back from their tins
As if they knew how they’d been baked
And felt terribly embarrassed.
The red henhouse, a long grape arbor, three large barns
It all sounds so good on paper.
With so little life in them,
And a stark refusal
To share in existence.
B. Could there be a warmer spot?
523 West Brown
A small bungalow on the wrong side of town
Cookies, cakes, pies, and an unmatched generosity of spirit
Huge family gatherings with no thought of cost or number.
“Have you got the bakery going, Mam?”
Was always my mother’s greeting.
Homemade noodles and freshly baked bread
Wafted toward us as we entered.
A deep resonance of warmth and peace
I never wanted to leave.
Cozy couches and overstuffed chairs,
Pictures and albums of everyone’s wedding,
The faces of my cousins surrounding me.
“12 grandchildren!!” My grandma would often exclaim...
“No regrets! Lori, I don’t have any regrets!!”
The deep reassurance of hearing who she was and who I was
And who I might become.
With over fifty years of loving union
The air resounded with a harmony
That seemed everlasting.
The best grandparents in the universe.
One set was really all I needed.
I can still hear them.
No gentle lowing or soothing baas
Only frantic braying and animal screams,
Swallowing our truck in the gritty dawn.
Ripped from their gentle pastures and barns,
The young ones were especially prized.
Their days of shelter suddenly over,
They sensed where they were headed.
We, too, were children, scared, locked inside the truck,
Two siblings surrounded by that fearful clamor…
Dad jabbed at the cows with an electric prod,
Heavy hooves hammered the truck’s shaking bed.
A different type of harvest,
Those disappearing animal families.
My love for the farm betrayed again.
An ugly lesson in sacrifice and survival.
Did we ask to go in there?
My brother and I
Riding along with our farmer dad,
Before school structured our lives,
Shielding us from certain realties.
Suddenly, we find ourselves inside, behind the meat counter.
How could there be such a place?
Blood splatter across the white walls,
Shell casings clustered on the concrete floor,
“Here’s the room where the action takes place.”
My tears interrupt the tour.
”Why do girls have to ruin everything?” my brother shouts.
They shuttle me to Grandma’s house
And her barely concealed outrage.
“Why would anyone take young kids into a butcher shop?”
The abiding brutality toward children and chattel.
I kept looking everywhere for my kittens and cats….
Everywhere I could think to look as a six-year-old girl.
Where could they have gone? Had I made a mistake in their care and feeding? Could someone have stolen them?
I kept hearing about people having things stolen:
Mom should never have left her purse in the car….
Dad finally caught the thieves who were stealing his gas on the farm….
But how could this keep happening, over and over…
There once had been so many I could hardly keep track!
Beautiful colors and different sizes
The calicos were my favorite, or maybe the grey ones.
That indelible softness, snuggled safely against my cheek and arms.
These were my pet friends, and I loved them dearly.
I kept asking my mom what she thought could have happened to them,
But she never would say.
Years later, as a teenager,
I had long ago given up the search.
We lived in a new house on the other side of town.
While at my grandparents’ during a family gathering
Safely ensconced in my favorite spot,
I overhead Uncle Dave and my mom laughing uproariously
About all of those cats she killed
When she started her car in the winter.
You've been listening to the poetry of Lore Hoevener on the Poets Weave, I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.