Lance Larsen

Earlier this afternoon I was banisher of dust 

bunnies and scrubber of toilets. Now I’m 

curator of decaying Polaroids—status 

quo whenever I watch my mother-in-law. 

Each day dementia maroons her on a new island. 


I’m pointing to faded snapshots of grandkids

and sounding out their names, syllable

by syllable. All these children came out of me? 

No, I say, out of your daughter. And now

I’m pointing to countries that have evaporated


overnight. In this photo, she’s riding 

an elephant in Thailand, in this one crossing 

a footbridge in the Andes made of grass 

and llama spit. I had houses in all these places? 

No, I say, but you visited them once. 


Her mind is a tumbleweed but she can still

belt out Jolly Old St. Nick. And does, her way 

of lightening the mood, never mind she’s 

six months and several holidays too late. 

She nods off, and I let her. What else can I do?


I’m no medic or deep-trauma therapist, 

just a washer of milky cups and keeper 

of the thermostat. He who retrieves junk mail 

from the freezer, frozen peas from the dryer, 

he who hides pills in cherry yogurt and spoons


them into her mouth. Also a voodoo sage 

who remembers the old cures, like throwing

open a window. Let raw sunlight cleanse 

a dying room, remind her that the cool 

mercy washing over us is called a breeze.



Headshot | Lance Larsen


LANCE LARSEN’s most recent collection is What the Body Knows. His awards include a Pushcart Prize and an NEA fellowship. He teaches at BYU and likes to fool around with aphorisms: “When climbing a new mountain, wear old shoes.” In 2017, he completed a five-year appointment as Utah’s poet laureate.