Living Midair    poems by Karen June Olson April 2019

Their Mother’s Voice Was Music

Stories beg for a teller.

Once a mother and her daughters sat cross-legged
in a field of wild clover. Soft wings of honeybees
brushed their skin, they were not afraid.

They ate sandwiches and pie, guessed names of birds,
drew pictures on squares of paper. Whoever said
sparrows are plain does not know beauty, a daughter thought

and sketched a crown and crest on a brown body. The other,
tired of sitting, stood, twirled circles in the un-mowed field,
arms out-stretched, said the names of every state she remembered,

and their capitals.


Grief cries for a window.

Why keep the photograph of a mother clutching
a silver casket, her face twisted, her mouth a wound?

At home, her daughter’s wedding dress hangs slack
on a padded hanger. Days before, bullets ripped

her girl’s chest into air. A water glass flew—
no one heard them shatter. At the party, fourteen people shredded into a river

of flesh and blood, that day in San Bernardino.



The sun will rise and moon will follow
in expected time. Yet, in the middle of night
when dreams are set in motion, the children asleep,
and dogs inside, an incessant clock



Remember bright costumed days.

That evening, they read poetry on a stoop, watched fireflies
flirt as cardinals called their families to nest. The daughters begged
for a story, one that began long ago, and ended happily after.

Their mother’s voice was music.

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