Laura Hartmark




Sadness is easy
you just sit there
with a blood balloon below your voicebox, rising and falling like like ocean.

The Melvie man was a hard man, maybe (I lose memory of generations when I meet my blood unknowns)

The Melvie man an uncle or brother or cousin to what bones my grandfather must same have had.

My mother introduced me: he had an old name, and nodded at me, just barely.

The Melvie man’s legs moved
without pause as if
in time
with threshing machine

Moved into
and out of the viewing (my grandmother’s body).

“Got to Get to Grand Forks by noon. There’s a shipment coming in.”

And then a man shape moving
to a snowline
of horizon.

This is how it is in Thief River Falls:
where the white sky touches the white ground in a line from here to the Dakotas.

Sadness is easy.
All you have to do is sit there, and breathe.

I don’t know if the Melvie men were hard men.

I don’t know much of these ancestors: the ones who drank and worked and died.

I remember the worn boots,
long legs,
and windburned face
of the Melvie man.

I remember him stopping by the body, barely pausing.

I drank in the shape of his lank and the steady of his gaze
and like a little girl,
made-believe: grandfather,
grandfather, maybe.

But what does it matter?
Matrilineal, really.
Matriarchal, anyway.

A man in motion always working, hard

Sadness is easy.

I watched him leave.


LAURA HARTMARK, a dysgeographic, is grateful to Robert Hass for letting her punch holes in papers in the Poet Laureate’s office, to Carolyn Forch√© for all that cash that graduate school threw at her, to Cornelius Eady for always believing in her despite the obvious evidence, and to C.K. Williams for allowing her to skip poetry class. Laura Hartmark is thrice divorced and lives in a van down by the river.


Read more by Laura Hartmark

Essay in Words Matter
Poem in the Boston Review