My Grandmothers Were Strong, by Arnie Johanson

Charles Shull Contest for Traditional Poetry, First Place 2010

My grandmothers were strong.
by Arnie Johanson

They had to be.
Weak women don’t survive to 103
like Olivia, with seven kids to raise
and a husband who spent all his working days
and nights and every penny he could scrounge
in local bars. She’d plunge into the grunge
each night to find him guttered, haul him home.
Those ordeals toughened her. But there are some
strong women who die young. The Reaper swings
his scythe through North Dakota wheat, brings
Lena’s second pregnancy to tragic end.
She labored raising house and barn, to defend
their stock and infant son against the minus
twenty prairie cold and winds whose heinous
force cut dreams of family building short.
Death makes demands nobody can abort.


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