To My Son

Shortly after finding out I was pregnant with our first child, we went on a family trip to Maui.  Snorkeling through coral reefs, among zig-zagging fish and sea turtles was an experience I will never forget.  While floating, I thought of the child in my womb and how I hoped they could experience this wonder some day.  Even though my son didn’t experience the snorkeling first hand, it felt like we were dancing through the coral reefs together. I wrote this poem right after snorkeling to remember.  On my first Mother’s Day with my son outside of the womb, I’m remembering this precious moment and all of the moments of wonder my son has had so far: his face lighting up at the presence of our dog, his tiny fingers running through the grass, touching a tree for the first time.  I’m so grateful to be experiencing these first with him and dream of our continued explorations. To my dear, sweet son who brings joy and laughter every day, I love you.  Let’s keep exploring the wonders of this world. 


When you were yet in my womb

we pirouetted in the push and pull

of an underwater ballet

moving in the same force

as the butterflyfish, tangs,

parrotfish, and wrasse. 

This world, this world of brilliant blue

and neon yellow,

of cauliflower coral, brain coral

is the world you will soon inherit.

When you walk on this planet

built of colonies of polyps

and singing humpback whales

I hope you explore in wonder.

But child, you will walk on a planet

fragile and fatigued

the coral reef where we spun

was faded.

Together, you and I,

we will nurture, redeem, and dance

caring for the damselfish and oak trees

as our friends in divine creation.

When you leave your watery womb

you will find this watery world

marvelous and broken

dance with me, child, and

together we will redeem.

Veggie Haikus

Some weeks, inspiration is my constant companion, but some weeks pass with no sparks or flickers.  This week was the later.  I finally cranked out a few haikus yesterday because I had to write something.  Of course, my haikus are about vegetables.  When you live on a farm and constantly discuss the different vegetables with your husband, vegetables don’t just creep into your thoughts, they are houseguests who become family members.  Enjoy my veggie themed haikus!

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Prairie Places

I’ve read Robert Frost’s “Desert Places” every day this week.  I love the imagery and have been especially moved by the fourth stanza.  I co-opted his rhyming scheme for a poem I wrote this week, which was strange because my poems usually don’t rhyme.  As I re-read “Desert Places”, I kept finding different alliteration patterns that added to the mood and meaning of his poem, creating a lyrical quality.  My poetry doesn’t have this sense of details yet, but hopefully by studying some of the greats, I can learn.  Even if you don’t read my poem, read and re-read “Desert Places”, you’ll be moved.

Desert Places

By: Robert Frost,

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

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Untamed Science

I wrote this poem in my head while doing little tasks around the lab that didn’t require my full mental attention.  I think a lot about what a strange environment a science lab is.  It’s not the environment of the stereotypical “mad scientist”, it’s just a work environment with a lot of sterile equipment and chemicals. But the work done in the lab is still peculiar; all these little tasks to understand minute details of the universe.  There’s something incredible about understanding the universe in great detail, but also, at least for me, something unbelievable.

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Vapor Memories

The other day, I smelled diesel exhaust and was instantly reminded of my time in East Africa.  This also happens with fire smoke and sometimes, depending on the season, with rain.  I’ll be physically present in one place and mentally across the globe all because of a smell, an invisible tug on my memory.

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Water Bath Canner

Several years ago, I found myself inexplicably drawn to canning, despite never canning, perhaps because of an unknown thread between my grandma and myself, a thread now materialized through her gift of her water bath canner.


Before I left South Dakota,

Grammy lead me to the basement,

into the laundry room with shelves

of holiday glassware,

assorted kitchen gadgets,

stacked cans of green beans and corn,

and placed in my hands, her water bath canner,

an inky, midnight-blue pot

with white speckles like constellations.

It jostled and rattled in the backseat

on the bumpy roads to Michigan.

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The Ones We Lost

With the passing of my grandpa on March 5, I realized I had lost three out of my four grandparents.  Reflecting on his life led me to also reflect on the lives and deaths of my other grandfather and grandma that I have lost.  


The one who left first.

Slowly evaporating, breathless among tubes

antiseptic machines

as her husband told and retold

their first meeting in Texas

when he was a charismatic flyboy

and I paced hospital corridors,

wondering how Christmas

would now work.

Her death

baptized me into new acquaintance

with grief.

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Sonja, my younger sister, is a joy and a blessing to all who cross her path.  One of my deepest pleasures in life is to be her sister.  She has shaped me into a more patient, compassionate person.  On April 17, she was honored by her boss and advocate, Colleen and by the mayor of Sioux Falls with not only an award celebrating her volunteer work but also a proclamation that April 17, 2018, is Sonja Swenson Day.  To truly celebrate Sonja Swenson Day in style, there would have had to be adorable babies to love on, puppies to snuggle and cookie-dough blizzards for all.  I am proud to be the sister of Sonja.  To honor Sonja Swenson Day 2018, here is a poem about my galactic sister.


Daughter of the star-breather,

cloaked in Celestial Powers,

she laughs,

enlightening the planet in the glow

of a full moon.

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