clara: in the post office :: linda hasselstrom

I keep telling you, I’m not a feminist.
I grew up an only child on a ranch,
so I drove tractors, learned to ride.
When the truck wouldn’t start, I went to town
for parts. The man behind the counter
told me I couldn’t rebuild a carburetor.
I could: every carburetor on the place. That’s
necessity, not feminism.
I learned to do the books
after my husband left me and the debts
and the children. I shoveled snow and pitched hay
when the hired man didn’t come to work.
I learned how to pull a calf
when the vet was too busy. As I thought,
the cow did most of it herself; they’ve been
birthing alone for ten thousand years. Does
that make them feminists?
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.

coffee cup café :: linda hasselstrom

Soon as the morning chores are done,
cows milked, pigs fed, kids packed
off to school, it’s down to the café
for more coffee and some soothing
conversation.

“If it don’t rain pretty soon, I’m
just gonna dry up and blow away.”
“Dry? This ain’t dry. You don’t know
how bad it can get. Why, in the Thirties
it didn’t rain any more than this for
(breathless pause) six years.”

“I heard Johnson’s lost ninety head of calves
in that spring snowstorm. They
were calving and heading for home
at the same time and they just walked
away from them.”

“Yeah and when the cows
got home, half of them died
of pneumonia.”

“I ain’t had any hay on me since that hail
last summer; wiped out my hay crop, all
my winter pasture, and then the drouth
this spring. Don’t know what I’ll do.”

“Yeah, but this is nothing yet.
Why in the Thirties the grasshoppers came
like hail and left nothing green on the ground.
They ate fenceposts, even. And the dust, why
it was deep as last winter’s snow drifts,
piled against the houses. It ain’t bad here yet,
and when it does come, there won’t be so many of us
having coffee.”

So for an hour they cheer each other, each story
worse than the last, each face longer. You’d think
they’d throw themselves under their tractors
when they leave, but they’re bouncy as a new calf,
caps tilted fiercely into the sun.

They feel better, now they know
somebody’s having a harder time
and that men like them
can take it.