My Father’s Second Wife

Drinking egg creams, eating malt balls,

she was solid Swedish stock—an athlete

for the ages with a steak in her mouth,

iron pills sized for cattle in her pockets.

She called herself apprentice to the Protestant

work horses, but only our mother

cleaned other people’s houses. My brother

and I were on floating stones, our corn-fed

hearts bloomed red. We missed our mother,

whose mind was overdrawn and bloodless.

Linda followed us around with the phone

in her hands, backpedaled toward the after party,

fed carrots to out-of-towners. Winters

she was in the sunroom, shrink-wrapping

jellied fruit for her holiday displays.

She held her long hair back from the water

in her teacup, said to turn the heat up in the storm.

 

***

Kirsten Andersen’s poems have appeared in The Believer, Tin House, Alaska Quarterly Review, Canteen Magazine, and elsewhere. She is a former Wallace Stegner fellow and a recipient of a winter fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her 2016 chapbook Family Court was published by Q Ave Press.

“My Father’s Second Wife” appeared in TLR Uncle