WILLA CATHER’S RIDE
They say, at ten, Willa rode her pony from Red Cloud
out to immigrant farms to deliver mail, scuffed letters
from the old country, exotically stamped, slit open
and read with trembling hands, and then came tears.
They say, out of her girl heart’s mercy, she knew then
she must read the letters first, and so prepare a remedy
before delivery—a story to tell, an antidote to hard news,
a way to open country people before their sorrows.
This is how, they say, little Willa became a writer, one who
carries what she knows before others across the prairie
from town to the lonesome soddy where only a girl’s
bright eyes can save an old woman’s strange love forever.
Professor’s House, Death Comes, One of Ours, Ántonía
all began with a wild canter across the open ground
on a mission of mercy, Willa’s hair flying in the wind
and a story gathering in her mind like a storm.