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Mrs. Engebretsen’s Banquet, Glendorado, Minnesota, Eighteen Seventy-Something

by Brian Satrom


I want to know what the Sioux thought of lutefisk.
I’m confused because her act

was one of kindness but unsettles me. Mrs. Engebretsen,

with her fjords, aquavit,
flat bread, Norwegian Bible, her New World,
setting a table with white linen

and silverware
for the impoverished Indians. I think of this

because it’s what I’d do, or would want to, the ugliness
of need requiring some gesture.
There’s the story of the Pentecost, people gathered to share

a meal, brought together by the act of remembering,
then the tongues of flame, everyone

understanding each other’s language. I think of Mrs. Engebretsen

looking at her guests—strangers
living on the same land
but in their own lost landscapes—and not knowing

what to say to them, keeping
the conversation going with small talk.

 

Brian Satrom lives in the Los Angeles area and works as a writer of training materials. He received his MFA in creative writing from the University of Maryland.


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