The World Is Different Today

In this picture we have of you

We pass around this family circle,

Four sisters, you the oldest we figure

Must be about eighteen; 

But  there are five sisters,

And we wonder where Juanita is.


Your funeral today;  we arrive early,

And rather than go inside the church we drive

In and around this small Iowa town.

We go past the cemetery, east another

Two miles or so, the road that winds around

Double Lakes, your father’s family farm.


Driving, I feel a stone roll around inside

My heart but then my uncle starts to tell

The story of the first time he tried snuff,

The golden wheat field he lay down in

Sick as a poisoned pup, wretching, cured.

Time flies, he says, the clock in his own soul

Saying he has just turned eighty.  Time flies.


In this picture we have of you,

You hold the youngest in your arms; 

My mother, the next to the youngest, stands,

Her arms wrapped around your legs. 

Leona has her back to your other side, looking away.


With the oldest gone, I think, who will

Save the younger from despair or haul them

Back from reckless indifference or lift

Them up each night when dusk comes and sleep

Un-hinders what has all day struggled inside them?

DANIEL JAMES SUNDAHL is Emeritus Professor in English and American Studies at Hillsdale College where he taught for more than 32 years. He and his wife have relocated from Michigan to South Carolina.