In the summer of 1993 I returned to my hometown, the small farming community of Windom, Minnesota. I left Windom about six years ago and usually return two or three times a year. I made the trip this time with my girlfriend, Leslie, from Phoenix, Arizona. We traveled for a vacation and to attend the family reunion of Malinda Flatgard’s offspring, one of many reunions held by my relatives.
Since moving from Windom, my father, David, has taken up the paintbrush as a creative tool, and I have taken up the pen. Leslie is also a poet and painter, so we decided, half tongue-in-cheek, to give an art show and poetry reading. My sister, Stephanie, booked the local library for a weekend. We made up invitations and posters, and Steph and my other sister, Beth, hyped it around town as “A Brenda A. Flatgard Production” (my mother).
I’d been kicking around poems about Windom for a long time in my head, and I decided to let some out for the reading. I kept pen and paper ready in case one tried to escape, and one day, the image of my grandma Malinda’s grave jumped to mind as Leslie and I biked to a coffeehouse. We got there, got a cup of coffee, and I brought my mind to her grave. And I felt the wind. The poem, The Wind on My Grandmother’s Grave, flowed right out of the pen. One of the longest poems I’ve written, the pen wrote it pretty much as it is now, no rewrite, just a few words changed. I wept upon its completion: it was magical.
We spent the week hanging out, touring old haunts and meeting friends and relatives, many of whom had come to town for the reunion. We found ourselves host to a full house at the three readings we gave. The audience of friends and familiar faces was as responsive and loving as any we’d read to.
The depth of emotion after the reading of The Wind on My Grandmother’s Grave was unforgettable. It was like taking the power of the poem when I first wrote it and intensifying that power by the number of people in the room. Reading the poem to a crowd of people who knew and loved Malinda has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. I am very thankful for the family I have.
And this has been the core of inspiration to create a whole book woven of my family and of Windom—a book of home.
Gilles Deleuze once said, “Always keep a piece of fresh land with you at all times.” I agree with Deleuze, that it is important to keep a place in your heart you can return to no matter where you are. That’s what I’ve tried to do with this book, create a place of home I can hold in my hands. I hope you find it warm and friendly.
—Brian FlatgardNovember 15, 1993