When Memory Takes Us Home: “Iowa Dreams”

The Orchards Poetry Journal recently published “Iowa Dreams” in their winter issue (p. 21). Longtime readers of this blog may have noticed how I’ve tinkered with this poem while evolving my craft.


December rose raw and sunless; layers piled roadside gray

where plows threw snow, sand, and ice, and gritty drifts


packed down into rough-hewn walls my shovel could not breach.

Christmas carols rang foreign, and the birdbath brimmed with stone water.


My dreams rolled Midwest, with May prairies greening

and sod breaking in prized rectangular patches


and my neighbor warning that cucumber seeds never burrowed

until Mother’s Day when peonies flirted ruffled skirts.


The cold crept me awake, and I took a bundled turn

in the neighbor’s garden; my glove-dimmed fingers unlatched


the cypress moon gate where concrete fu dogs

grimaced as blue hollies pricked the night’s blanket.


Woody vines weighted the arbor’s bones,

and river birches peeled salmon in the side yard


where needle-thin bird tracks ghosted—

a temple bell chimed copper prayers,


and I plunged boot-deep back to my deck and paused,

brushing off the fishnet metal top of Nannie’s patio table


that once baked on Georgia lemonade days; the wind had rounded

the snow in the laps of the ice-cream chairs, now her fat bridge foursome


greedy for the triumph of sweeping pennies into leather coin purses

that snapped shut, smartly enough, with kiss clasps—


and I longed for iron-worn bedsheets billowing in cumulus

motion on a clothesline as my father staked bean poles


in crooked clay rows and bent to plant Kentucky Wonders

before Good Friday thundered in the Appalachian foothills.




  1. Karen A Lin

    Gosh, dumbfounded and in awe once again. Especially loved the kiss clasp purse and all the rest, frankly. I did wonder what concrete fu dogs were? fu? Is that something Southern I missed? Gosh… you need to get a book out – novel even

    1. Catherine Hamrick

      Hi Karen, Happy New Year and wishing you all the best! Fu or foo dogs–I’ve seen the spelling both ways. Mythical/lionlike creatures that guard entrances to temples and other structures–not southern but popular. I have almost finished 2 books–revising the poetry book. It’s slow going–but I have learned a lot. Looking for publishers in 2022.

  2. Sharron Lehman

    Darling Catherine,
    Happy happy happy New Year, and thank you for this Proustian memory-jolt of *my* Nana: “sweeping pennies into leather coin purses that snapped shut, smartly enough, with kiss clasps…”
    Hers was of soft, worn red leather, it smelled of copper and Evening in Paris and I was allowed to keep it in my pocket on days when we’d take the trolley to 69th Street in Philadelphia to shop for shoes at Buster Brown’s.
    I’ve missed you!

Leave a Reply to T. K. Thorne Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.