Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Poetry Corner


By Norah Christianson


After Forty Year of Marriage, She Tries

A New Recipe for Hamburger Hot Dish

By Leo Dangel


“How did you like it?” she asked.

“It’s all right,” he said.

“This is the third time I cooked
it this way. Why can’t you
ever say if you like something?”

“Well if I didn’t like it, I
wouldn’t eat it,” he said.

“You never can say anything
I cook tastes good.”

“I don’t know why all the time
you think I have to say it’s good.
I eat it, don’t I?”

“I don’t think you have to say
all the time it’s good, but once
in awhile you could say
you like it.”

“It’s all right,” he said.

Leo Dangel was born in 1941 and raised on a farm in South Dakota. One summer day, at the tender age of twenty, his life changed completely. He was in a car accident that left him permanently paralyzed and in a wheelchair. After two years of rehabilitation, he attended college, where he received a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in English.

In 1968, he began his twenty-five year career of teaching writing and literature full time at Southwest Minnesota State University. In that time he became a poet, and for the rest of his days continued to write his homespun and simple poetry that reflects his world of rural Midwestern life. Dangel died in Yankton, South Dakota in 2016. He has five books of poems and has won a Nebraska Book Award.

Dangel’s poem, “After Forty Years of Marriage…,” is funny in its understatement and restrained feeling. We can vividly imagine it as a scene in a humorous family sitcom. Maybe we even chuckle in recognition (we have all been unappreciated at some point in our lives). Maybe, in the sitcom we imagine, Lucy turns and plops a ladle full of hamburger hot dish on Ricky’s head, saying in her saucy, shrill voice, “Does it taste good now?”

But there’s another scenario offered by the poem that has potential for real drama. Maybe, after forty years of being unappreciated, years of monosyllabic conversation, years of being taken for granted, maybe her repressed rage overcomes her, and she turns and plants the bread knife in his aorta. Murder a la carte!

Or maybe she just sighs, and settles into her lifelong habit of resignation, accepting that he is who he is, he’s not going to change now. It’s been forty years, after all. She should just stop hoping to be appreciated by him.

I’m not sure I even like this poem. But it sure does get you thinking.


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