Author: Linda M. Hasselstrom

Title: "Dakota Bones, Grass, Sky – Collected and New Poems"

Publisher: Spoon River Poetry Press 2017, 227 pages of text

Poet Linda M. Hasselstrom’s "Dakota Bones, Grass, Sky – Collected and New Poems" contains poems old and new, but they are all new to me as this is the first time I have read any of her poems. Though there are a few historical markers imbedded in some of her poems, old or new makes no difference as they all flow nicely in this one volume.

Her home is in South Dakota ranch country, so anyone with any experience in rural North Dakota will recognize and appreciate her life lessons and observations.

These are not romantic poems about her life or her attachment to South Dakota. Often she writes with a hard edge given her cheating first husband and her second keeper of a husband who died too early. But many of these poems will resonate with you as you read them. Here is a sample:

Grandmother

I always see her hands first, turning

the handle of the Foley food mill.

The veins are knotted over old bones;

spicy tomato steam rises around

her white hair. A worn gold ring turns on

her finger but never will slide off

over the knuckle. Solid as a

young woman, she grew thin, forgot our

names. Hands that fed four daughters lay still.

She left us little: brown unlabeled pictures,

a dozen crocheted afghans, piles of patched jeans.

In the cellar, crowded shelves bear jars of beans,

peas, corn, meat.

Labels like white silent mouths

open and close in the dark.

In "For Pat, Who Wasn’t Home," she wrote several lines that caught my attention:

College changed us all; we grew up a little,

fell in and out of love, made some friends,

many of whom are now dead.

My first love’s smile died with him in Viet Nam,

on his forty-eight mission.

In "Clara: In the Post Office," she writes:

It’s not

that I don’t like men; I love them – when I can.

But I’ve stopped counting on them

to change my flats or open my doors.

That’s not feminism; that’s just good sense.

I found myself laughing out loud at the humor in some of the lines of poetry. This volume of poetry is a quick and pleasant read. Hasselstrom writes well of things of which many of us have memories.

Bob Wefald is a retired North Dakota State District Court judge. Wefald became a lawyer in 1970. His career included serving a year as a law clerk, four years as attorney general, more than 23 years in private practice in Bismarck and 12 years as a judge. He served as an officer in the Navy for three years of active duty plus 24 years in the Navy Reserve.

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