Laura Madeline Wiseman
Council Bluffs, Iowa, late 1860s
Miss Florence E. Felts
Happy birthday littlest sister!
I’m writing to announce our first,
Alice M. Fletcher. She shares your day.
The delivery was long. She seems to thrive.
Did I ever tell you what I remember
about your birth? I was seventeen
when you were born—
father (48), mother (43), Susan (24),
Aaron (22), Sarah (19), George (16),
Oliver (14) Emeline (14), Edward (13),
Armihta (8), Orilla (5), and Charles (3)
—all of us were there
by the summer kitchen. It was Sunday.
Besides the labor, only prayer work was done.
Our boarder, a new minister, whispered
verse as he turned pages in his book.
On the trellis porch above the kindling
a wasp flicked its wings as it climbed.
Runners twisted up the whitewash
with scarlet blossoms open as vulvas.
Honeybees purred in the red petals.
The leaves of broomcorn and squash
swayed in our mother’s garden.
Beyond the privy’s crescent moon,
father paced in the wildflowers
as mother cried out during your birth.
I think he knew something good
was coming into this world.
Laura Madeline Wiseman is a doctoral candidate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she teaches English. She is the author of Sprung, forthcoming from San Francisco Bay Press, as well as three chapbooks of poetry, My Imaginary (Dancing Girl Press, 2010), Ghost Girl (Pudding House, 2010), and Branding Girls (Finishing Line Press, 2011). Her work has appeared in Margie, Prairie Schooner, Arts & Letters, Blackbird, and 13th Moon. She notes this poem is based on the life of her ancestor, nineteenth century suffragist and lecturer, Matilda Fletcher (1842-1909).