Don’t go to the Midwest to school, you’ll marry there and never come
home again.

– Eleanor Sidman
Don’t be silly, Mother. That’s not going to happen.
– Sandra Sidman

In mid air, flung out like a sack of rutabagas
from the arms of a mountain
of a man dressed in lederhosens,
swung wide into a cloudbank of noise
I asked myself,

How did you get into this polka party?
You can’t even spell the name of the place.

In Schlief’s Little City, with shiny wooden floors
shaking, the grammar of my life was changing.
These men in short pants could dance.
My bridegroom was too reserved to move
so fast.

What were we celebrating?
Seven months of pregnancy & morning
sickness? No money? Little romance
between the pages of anatomy books?

As the evening progressed, swept in
and out through a veil of purple light
illuminating an invisible symbol
stamped on my hand, I was held parallel
to the floor in this smorgasbord of chaos.

Women dressed in hardanger-stitched vests, puffy,
white shirts and skirts, stuffed with layers
of petticoats, swayed and swirled.
They danced with so much grace, while I –
the newest immigrant—raised on ballet
and ballroom dancing–stumbled across the floor.

I’d brought only black clothes, my books,
a silver tea set from an austere grandmother who
never would have come here in the first place.

Published Whistling Girls and Cackling Hens, Sandra Larson, Pudding House Chapbook Series, 2003