Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of poems have been written to express the grief of losing a parent. Many of the most telling of these attach the sense of loss to some object, some personal thing left behind, as in this elegy to her mother by a Nebraskan, Karma Larsen:
MoonflowersMilly Sorensen, January 16, 1922—February 19, 2004 It was the moonflowers that surprised us. Early summer we noticed the soft gray foliage. She asked for seedpods every year but I never saw them in her garden. Never knew what she did with them. Exotic and tropical, not like her other flowers. I expected her to throw them in the pasture maybe, a gift to the coyotes. Huge, platterlike white flowers shining in the night to soften their plaintive howling. A sound I love; a reminder, even on the darkest night, that manicured lawns don’t surround me. Midsummer they shot up, filled the small place by the back door, sprawled over sidewalks, refused to be ignored. Gaudy and awkward by day, by night they were huge, soft, luminous. Only this year, this year of her death did they break free of their huge, prickly husks and brighten the darkness she left.
Poem copyright by Karma Larsen, and reprinted by permission of the author. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.
About the Author
Ted Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa, in 1939. He is the author of a number of collections of poetry, including Flying at Night (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), Delights & Shadows (Copper Canyon, 2004), and Sure Signs (1980). His nonfiction books include The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets (University of Nebraska Press, 2005) and Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps (University of Nebraska Press, 2002).
Kooser is the U. S. Poet Laureate (2004-2006) and a professor in the English Department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He lives on an acreage near the village of Garland, Nebraska, with his wife Kathleen Rutledge, the editor of the Lincoln Journal Star.