Notes from a Sodbuster’s Wife, Kansas, 1868
What really got us in the end—
we women who didn’t make it,
who withered and blew away in the open—
was the wind. Space, yes, and distance,
too, from neighbors, a piano back in Boston.
But above all, the wind.
In our letters it shrieks hysteria from sod huts,
vomits women prematurely undone by loneliness,
boils up off the horizon to suck dry
their desire as it flattened the stubborn grasses.
Not convinced? Scan the photographs,
grainy and sepia-toned, like old leather.
Study our bony forms in plain black dresses,
our mouths drawn tight as a saddle cinch,
accusation leaking from rudderless eyes, betrayed.
I tried. Lord knows I tried.
Survived the locusts and even snakes
that fell from the ceiling at night,
slithering between us in bed.
I dreamed of water, chiffon, the smell
of dead leaves banked against a rotting log.
I heard opera, carriage wheels on cobblestone.
Cried and beat my fists raw into those earthen walls.
The wind. Even as it scoured
the skin it flayed the soul,
that raked, pitted shell.
And how like the Cheyenne,
no fixed location,
not even a purpose one could name.
Peter Ludwin lives in Kent, Washington. He is the recipient of a Literary Fellowship from Artist Trust. His first book, A Guest in All Your Houses, was published in 2009 by Word Walker Press. His second, Rumors of Fallible Gods, was a finalist for the 2010 Gival Press Poetry Award, and will be published this summer by Presa Press. For eleven years Ludwin has been a participant in the San Miguel Poetry Week in Mexico. He works as an art show manager, and loves to travel, having most recently visited the Tibetan region of Sichuan Province,China.