Alone

A Poem by Victoria Peterson-Hilleque

I want a chance to do it again,
give Dorothy the last sponge bath, be more
careful with her sore shoulder

this time. I would not chatter
on and on about when the nurse washed
my hair after bunion surgery.

I would ask her about living
at the convent; her desire to be a saint.
She would tell me about the farm,

when her mother tied her
to the back of the tractor and plowed the fields.
I would slowly rinse the soap listening,

ask her to tell me about the day
she knew she was on her own. She stood
at the bottom of a steep,

steep hill thick, slick
with ice. She took a few minutes
to acknowledge no one

would rescue her.
I want to ask her how she
made her way up.

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Letters to Minnehaha Creek: 1.

A Poem by Victoria Peterson-Hilleque’

Do you want more than you have?
I will bring you everything I can.

The wood ducks that have not
left Powderhorn Park yet.

Peppermint tea at Mayday Café
and the pink hay bale house

still unfinished. Falling leaves
you have and the trees

along your path. I will bring you
whatever you want. The graveyard,

all those dancing bones are yours.
The Tudor with the barking dogs.

The father telling his child,
Stop worrying about that.

The tarp over Seven Star
Missionary Baptist Church,

the plastic strip of flags glistening
as ice in the sun. I cannot bring

the names of the trees and birds.
She knew them, but I only remember

her name. Dorothy.
Dorothy. Dorothy.

The American flag I can bring you,
the strollers and foreclosure signs.

The bird baths, the sedum, and mums still blooming.
Carved pumpkins, as many as you want,

and the Kleenex ghosts suspended
on wire by the side walk.

I do this for her memory.
She would say, Do it for yourself.

Here is the smell of burning bread,
the softness of the pussy willow shrub,

Here is the weight of her absence.

~~~~~

You saunter by, low
and heavy with leaves.

The echo of cars on the parkway will not
stop you. Nor will the heavy machinery

repairing the road. Or the wind
and anticipation of snow.

The baptism of all of these leaves
will not make you quit. The cancer

had its way with her too. It kept
moving until she stopped. But

the weight of my loss will not stop you.
You move as you were meant to move.

How far would I go if I moved like you?

~~~~~

She brought extra gloves in winter
and reading glasses to see

my poems. She brought
plastic bags to sit on when wet.

The berries bring everything.
They hang on to the trees,

skin pitted, insides mush. Red
remains for birds to pluck one by one.

The seeds bring sleeping promises.