Connections by Sharon Waller Knutson

Connections

Michael is missing, his mother tells me
as she buys Louis Lamour novels
in my Idaho Falls used bookstore
while the sky is streaked with black clouds.

Although we lived in the same small
town briefly and were the same age,
Michael and I never met but his mother
was a longtime friend of my father’s.

Michael’s hound howls from her Jeep
Cherokee. The dog was discovered
on the road between Blackfoot
and Pocatello where we drive often.

Her son was last seen with two strangers
in a bar across from the bus station
where my grandmother met the Greyhound
carrying me as a child to Idaho from Montana.

A month later, cops arrest two cowboys
driving Michael’s Ford Explorer
with blood in the trunk in Billings
where I was a reporter in the sixties.

His mother won’t stop until she finds
her son and puts his murderers in prison.
Michael’s body is found near Whitehall
where my father rodeoed in the fifties.

The murderers will die in a prison
near Deet Lodge where we spent the summer.
I understand the grief etched on her
face many years later when I lose my son.

*

Sharon Waller Knutson is a retired journalist who lives in Arizona. She has published eleven poetry books including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields (Flutter Press 2014,) What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say and Trials & Tribulations of Sports Bob (Kelsay Books 2021) and Survivors, Saints and Sinners (Cyberwit 2022,) Kiddos & Mamas Do the Darndest Things (Cyberwit 2022,) The Vultures are Circling (Cyberwit 2023) and The Leading Ladies in My Life (Cyberwit June 2023.) Her twelfth collection, My Grandfather is a Cowboy is forthcoming from Cyberwit in January 2024. Her work has also appeared in more than 50 different journals. She is the editor of Storyteller Poetry Journal, dedicated to promoting narrative poetry.

On the Second Anniversary of His Death by Sharon Waller Knutson

On the Second Anniversary of His Death
for Ben

His white and blue hat
sailors salute on the submarine
sits on the glass hutch
beside the empty urn.

In the windowsill,
a spider on stilts
spins a web that snares
a buzzing bumblebee.
Outside, a Sonoran toad
weeps and wails as rain
washes him from his
underground bunker.

When the sun smiles,
bald baby eagles
chirp from their nest
in the Saguaro Cactus.

*

Sharon Waller Knutson is a retired journalist who lives in Arizona. She has published several poetry books including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields (Flutter Press 2014,) What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say and Trials & Tribulations of Sports Bob (Kelsay Books 2021) and Survivors, Saints and Sinners (Cyberwit 2022) Kiddos & Mamas Do the Darndest Things (Cyberwit 2022) and The Vultures are Circling (Cyberwit 2023) and has two collections forthcoming: The Leading Ladies in My Life (Cyberwit June 2023) and My Grandfather is a Cowboy (Cyberwit January 2024.) Her work has also appeared in more than 50 different journals. She is the editor of Storyteller Poetry Journal, dedicated to promoting narrative poetry.

The Choice by Sharon Waller Knutson

The Choice

He has no choice when his mother
dies giving him life with his father’s
name sealed on her blue lips.

He has no choice when his adopted
mother chooses him and sits
with him during sickness and nightmares.

Walks him to school, makes him peanut
butter sandwiches, kisses his bruises
and laughs at his silly jokes.

But when he is ten, he is asked
to make a choice at the Rose
Ceremony on Mother’s Day.

White if your mother is dead.
Red if she is alive. The only mother
he has known is sitting stiff

on a folding chair and he knows
she wants to jump up and say,
It’s okay if you choose her.

And he knows his birthmother
who is watching over him
wouldn’t mind if he chose red.

But it is his choice. With his right
hand he reaches for the red rose
and with the left hand he picks the white,

sticks them in his buttonholes
and marches off with the scout troop
to salute their mothers.

*

Sharon Waller Knutson is a retired journalist who lives in Arizona. She has published several poetry books including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields (Flutter Press 2014,) What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say and Trials & Tribulations of Sports Bob (Kelsay Books 2021) and Survivors, Saints and Sinners (Cyberwit 2022.) Her work has also appeared recently in GAS Poetry, Art and Music, The Rye Whiskey Review, Black Coffee Review, Terror House Review, Trouvaille Review, ONE ART, Mad Swirl, The Drabble, Gleam, Spillwords, Muddy River Review, Verse-Virtual, Your Daily Poem, Red Eft Review and The Five-Two.

Toads and Petroglyphs by Sharon Waller Knutson

Toads and Petroglyphs

Get up lady, the five-year-old says
as he x-rays me with dark eyes
and rips the sheet off my body.
Groggy on codeine and penicillin
after a yanked molar, I blink.

You’re mean lady, he says
when I snatch the Coca-Cola
and Hershey bar from him
and fix him a glass of milk
and bowl of granola for breakfast.

Catch me if you can, he shrieks
as he runs out the door of the RV
and up the hill behind the house site
where his father and my husband
carry logs and place them on the ceiling.

I give chase and heart valve flopping,
lose my balance, but he pops out
from behind an Ironwood.
Hanging onto the tree, he grabs
my hand and steadies me.

You’re pretty cool lady, he says
as we see Sonoran toads swimming
and serenading us in the Indian Baths.
We walk up to the rocks and he jumps
with joy as he views sketches
of his Native American ancestors.

Can you spare a dollar lady, he says
at twenty-years-old as he stands
on a street corner, arms and neck
tattooed like the petroglyphs,
his dark hair dirty and disheveled.
His eyes muddy as his jeans,
he sucks on an empty Coors bottle
he picks up from the gutter.

Do you remember me? I want to ask
but the woman who points him out
keeps on driving, reminding me
that he was raised on the streets
by drunks and druggies and that’s
all he knows. But the mother in me
still remembers the five-year-old boy
who thought toads and I were cool
and she wants to take him home.

*

A Note from The Author:

Toads and Petroglyphs is a true story about a boy I only spent a few hours with but fell in love with. It saddens me to know he probably doesn’t even remember me and to see him living on the streets but I know I can’t save him.

*

Sharon Waller Knutson is a retired journalist who lives in Arizona. She has published several poetry books including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields (Flutter Press 2014) and What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say and Trials & Tribulations of Sports Bob (Kelsay Books 2021.). Her work has also appeared in Trouvaille, One Art, Mad Swirl, The Drabble, Gleam, Spillwords, Muddy River Review, Verse-Virtual, Your Daily Poem, Red Eft Review, The Five-Three and The Song Is…

Sonnet by Sharon Waller Knutson

Sonnet

She says her mother named
her Sonnet because she loved
Edna St. Vincent Millay and read
her Love is Not Blind in the crib.

In her Mickey Mouse voice,
she tells us she has rescued
a newborn wren that needs
to be fed every 30 minutes.

Left it in a cage in her two-bedroom
apartment along with the bulldog,
Border Collie, two Siamese
and five four-week-old kittens.

Baby birds are fragile. Hope it survives
while I’m at work for three hours,
she says smiling as Shirley Temple
curls fall on her forehead.

Cool, she says as I tell her again
to please hang up my mother-
in-law’s silk blouses and slacks
and brand new birthday dress

and not wad them up and throw
them in the hamper like wrappers
and to wring out the wet towels
and hang them up to dry.

We are watching videos
when my mother-in-law
rings the bell rigged to her recliner.
As we rush in, she says, Wake her up!

Sonnet is sleeping soundly
and surprised when we shake
her shoulders and like a Stepford
Wife, she stands up and grins

as she gently lifts my mother-
in-law from the recliner
and wheels her to the hospital
bed and tucks her in.

*

Sharon Waller Knutson is a retired journalist who lives in a wildlife habitat in Arizona. She has published several poetry books including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields by Flutter Press and What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say and Trials & Tribulations of Sports Bob forthcoming from Kelsay Books. Her work has also appeared in various journals most recently in Mad Swirl, Trouvaille Review, Muddy River Review, Verse-Virtual, Your Daily Poem, Red Eft Review and The Song Is…