Two Poems About Family

Two poems from a legacy of Mennonite family frugality and careful living.

From the author:

"When I started my MA English program at IUSB, I was not familiar with Julia Kasdorf or Mennonite poetry in general. Bobby Meyer Lee, who had taught at GC but now teaches at IUSB, used her poems as an option for a paper in a graduate class I took, and I was hooked. I wrote a twenty-page paper on Julia Kasdorf’s poem, “St. Francis preaches to the Birds” from her poetry book, Sleeping Preacher. Bobby also recommended A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry, edited by Ann Hostetler. It was an incredible experience to discover and read poetry that I identified with on such a personal level."

Family Frugality

When a Mennonite dies, someone else has to find a use for the empty egg cartons, the drawers crowded with re-straightened twist-ties. . . . Our people saw long years of suffering. Generations later, we’re stocking up, just in case there’s another round of persecution, another bloody theater.

Kirsten Eve Beachy, “Me and the Martyrs[1]

In line
at Starbucks

guilt grabs
me again.

I’m paying
$3 for

fancy coffee
I could

brew cheaper
at home.

Dad wouldn’t
buy it,

doesn’t drink
it. Says

coffee’s only
cost-effective for

staying awake
while driving.

Vending machine
pretzels also

fill me
with angst.

What if
I need

that squandered
dollar later?

Great grandpa
Jesse brought

home boxes
of overripe

bananas Grandma
choked down.

Aunt Kathy
washes out

plastic baggies.
My mother-in-law

once found
3 forgotten

clementines in
our trash

outside, proudly
returned them.

I add
sugar, taste

the bitter-
sweet flavor

of a
small sin.


Family Games

Great grandpa
chicken breast
but ate the
dark meat
he thought
liked the
white meat.

Great grandma
chicken drumsticks
but ate the
white meat
she thought
liked the
dark meat.

us all candles
in various
Christmas colors
she thought
we could
each pick
our favorite.

but makes me
choose first
she thinks
want the
pink one, too.

I can’t
the games
but I’m often
obliged to

[1] Beachy, Kristen Eve. “Me and the Martyrs.” Tongue Screws and Testimonies, Ed. Kristen Eve Beachy. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2010. 34-43. Print.

About the Author

Karen Yoder

Karen Yoder studied German, English, and music at Goshen College. She earned her MA in Spanish at the University of Northern Iowa and an MA in English from Indiana University, South Bend, where she became intrigued by the poetry of Julia Kasdorf. She teaches high school Spanish in Indiana. Her poetry has appeared previously in the Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing, Rhubarband Meridian.