Athena Kildegaard — “Prairie Daughter (1912)”

Mama named her chickens after relatives she’d
never met: Valborg, Fylla, Gunnar, Thore.

Ingrid’s eggs were best. Gunnar mama fried
the first warm day and off we went with baskets

and the baby in a barrow and daddy in rolled sleeves.
His arms the color of soap, the color of the lard

mama rendered the day before. Picnic day
the sky was high and fine, clouds like lace.

Mama said we had to walk until we couldn’t see
the house. That desperate she was, that filled

with longing. We never did. That night I heard
daddy hush mama and mama hush daddy.

I thought about Gunnar, my own cousin, and where
could he be with the moon like a tenderness.

Athena Kildegaard is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Course, from Tinderbox Editions. Her poems have recently appeared in Ecotone, Poetry Northwest, About Place Journal, Water~Stone, and elsewhere. She teaches at the University of Minnesota, Morris.