For Henry Lewis Larson

I left your address, 620 Walnut Street, Cloquet, Minnesota,
in my telephone book. I’d left it there all these years
after the divorce from your son. Now bent
on cleaning up, I try to erase it, but your phone number,
Triangle 9-8818, won’t disappear—stubborn,
orderly—like you.

You were so meticulous about all you possessed.
Your garage, the cleanest I’d ever seen:
green floor and white enameled walls.
Your light blue Chevrolet with the just-polished
chrome fins sat in the middle of it. An air freshener
hung between the front seats, compass inactive on the dash.

The only other items there; a snow shovel, a broom, plastic brushes,
evenly cut birches piled high. Not to clutter the space,
the family canoe rested outside against the house.
It seemed a little out of order. You loaned it every year
to some Ojibwa neighbors from Fond du Lac Reservation
so they could harvest wild rice.

But when your labored breath could no longer clean your lungs
you finally quit arranging things. It was about this time of year,
ten years ago, near winter, I couldn’t do anything but drive
the long, bleak 35 North passing from open country to pine,
to birch, arriving over the hills to see Lake Superior twisting below,
feel its breath blowing on me. I had to see you, hospitalized
in your room of polished chrome, to tell you

that I loved you. The tube in your throat, you couldn’t reassure me
when I said good-bye. It was a tone-dead day, nothing comforting
about it, that wind-swept November afternoon we buried you,
not far from Indian territory. The boys threw dirt on your casket.
It blew back on our splintered family. And I was almost glad
you were done with the messiness of caring.

Published in Over A Threshold of Roots, Sandra Larson, Pudding House Chapbook Series, 2007