Iowa Writes

Portraits of Wives

Think of the summer you drove with the family
West, of relentless sun in high skies, traffic
moving like a slow-motion nightmare, campers
named for dead tribes. Think of diners where
you stopped, two hundred miles since the last;
the list of eligible voters tacked up inside
a screen door, twelve names long not counting
the ones crossed off—deceased, or moved on.

Think of the rock shops, the Indian turquoise
bracelets and rings, the polished agate stones
good for luck. Think of the rivers, the Snake,
the Platte, the Yellowstone, the Powder, where
your kids raked transparent pools for pebbles
worn every bit as smooth by Nature, where you
and your wife stayed in the car with the doors
wide open and mapped the rest of the afternoon.

Think of museums. Every little town has one,
proud of its hundred years: dogged pioneers,
explorers, wagoneers—the old men with nothing
to lose, the young with everything to achieve,
shapers of rough land, architects of new life.
Here are instruments to break the earth, tame
animals, kill natives and rivals, build barns
and cabins, set posts and stretch angry wire.

Think of the wives. They are stern in sepia,
anonymous on the walls in yellowed albums
as if the West were peopled sans love, sans
passion. How difficult to forget those cold
eyes, those mouths thin as an incision where
progress cut out laughter, that hair black as
a Sioux brave's, those tough hands that held
the West above the murderous dirt of history.

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

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Robley Wilson retired from teaching at the University of Northern Iowa in 2000 and lives in Florida with his wife, Susan Hubbard, and five cats. His most recent novel is The World Still Melting (Thomas Dunne, 2005). "Portraits of the Wives" was published in Voices on the Landscape: Contemporary Iowa Poets, edited by Michael Carey (Loess Hills Books, 1996).

This page was first displayed
on December 05, 2007

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