Thursday, April 11, 2024

Turning White, 1888


They say one becomes euphoric

just before death.


It was January, but

the flowerboxes were filling

too quickly with snow.


And Mama, at home in her armchair,

can only grab her chest,

wring her hands,


fearing delivery

of her cherished child

in reverse,


with not a lick euphoric enough

to console the freezing of her heart.



© 2024 Jennifer Wagner



For the amazing Shay’s Word Garden Word List:  Spill Simmer Falter Wither


I recently read, and took inspiration from, Ted Kooser’s book, The Blizzard Voices, which is a book of short poems based on the experiences of people living in the Great Plains during what’s known as the Children’s Blizzard of 1888.  Sadly, many children were lost trying to get home from school during the surprise storm.  My mom is from Nebraska and says they were taught about it as part of state history.  After reading about it, I dreamt of a school teacher who saved her pupils by sticking them together with Grey Poupon and marshmallows.  I can’t explain it; dreams are weird, but that is another poem. 


NPM Day 11


  1. I can't even imagine being a mother with a child out in a storm like that, especially in 1888, The event you were inspired by is fascinating to me! I have read both Laskin's "The Children's Blizzard" and Mary Cable's "The Blizzard of '88" about a similar storm that hit the northeast the same year. Maybe it was even the same storm, having moved east, I don't know. Harrowing, fascinating stuff!

  2. Beautiful. CHilling. Thought provoking. Thank you!

  3. How awful it must have been for parents to wait for their children, not knowing whether they would make it home or not. I understand a mama grabbing her chest and ringing her hands. A fine poem.....and thanks for sharing the book as well!

  4. I had not heard about that blizzard. But my grandma when young had a pony called Punch. Back in the late 1800's, travel was on horseback. One winter day, her sister saddled up Punch to ride the railroad track into town (because of the deep snow). Punch didnt want to go. Their mother, some time later, heard a long wail of a train and knew something had happened......she rode into town to see if her daughter was okay. She could see the plunging leaps the pony had made trying to get away from the train. The daughter was put on the train and taken to a hospital, she lived. But the pony died. My grandma regretted making him go her whole life.

  5. You paint the scene in crisp, stark terms, the starkness of a mother's foreboding loss.

  6. This is painful, stark, beautiful poetry. I can't imagine having my child out in a freezing storm, and not being able to bring them home.

  7. Sad and heartbreaking, a wonderful tribute to a an incredible tragedy.


Thank you for your thoughts!