Four Poems inspired by Mennonite lives

Karen Yoder is a teacher and a poet. Her poems have appeared previously in the Journal of the Center for Mennonite Writing.

Uneven Grass

After chemo you no longer

needed to shave your thin,

hairless legs. The wind

chilled you: Lora helped

you pull on her son’s

long, red soccer socks.

All of us gathered

together in the backyard,

drinking lemonade. We

gave you the best lawn

chair, swaddled you in

blankets. Your face was

gaunt, ankles and belly

swollen as if in a

macabre pregnancy. You

hadn’t driven since last

autumn: Maria gave you

a ride here, Maria in

her second trimester,

glowing. The birds, the

green leaves: eight women

eating cake, trying to

anchor our flimsy lawn

chairs in uneven grass.

On the Fritz

"We must be committed to living responsibly . . . . The process takes as long as it takes to raise children who know how to survive on less." --More-with-Less Cookbook[1]

Don't change out

the fridge until it

dies during a mid-summer

heat wave. Before replacing,

consult Consumer Reports

at the library.

Meanwhile, make meals

determined by

expiration dates. Let Dad

finish off last week's

Quick Soybean Soup.[2]

Buy toasters at garage sales

so old they're triangular and

toast one side at a time, or

malfunction so you

have to turn the knob to

"dark" to get bread down and

"light" to get it up.

Use the failing blender

even though it sticks on

frozen strawberries and

your shake has chunks.

It's a wonder that

blender didn't kill me

the day it shorted out,

its cord a makeshift

Fourth-of-July sparkler.

Diamond Engagement Ring


One Sunday Great-grandpa Yoder threw

his gold watch chain out of the buggy

into the ditch. He kept the watch but

replaced its gold casing with silver.[3]

"A trifle, an ornament" said Great-grandpa of

his daughter's high school class pin,

though he defended her right to wear

snug stocking caps instead of drafty bonnets.[4]

“A small pebble” said Aunt Phyllis of

Mom’s diamond engagement ring, maybe

agreeing with Great-grandpa, or maybe jealous

since Phyllis got a sewing machine instead.

Or perhaps she wished that some female relative,

for once, would own a gaudy gold ring, the boulder

inconvenient in its corpulence, shimmering

proudly in the sunlight, defying tradition.

Dutchy English (a poem for Grandma)

You understood that some words

couldn’t quite be translated,

that it was all right to let those

stubborn Dutch words rutsch in

and verdutz the pure English

your generation prized. I remember

how you’d red up the house and

invite us over, and when the schnitz

pie was all at least there was bean

soup left. And you weren’t being doppig

when you put your pie in your soup,

you liked it that way, together.


[1] Longacre, Doris Janzen.More-with-Less Cookbook. Scottdale, PA: Herald P, 1976. 23.

[2] Ibid., 211.

[3] Yoder, Paton, (Silvanus and Susie Yoder. Goshen, IN: P. Yoder, 1982), 53.

[4] Ibid.

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.