“To all those who don’t like the idea of me as president, I say, they will get used to it.”

— Bashir Gemayel, new president of the Republic of Lebanon, spoken moments before he was assassinated on September 14, 1982.


Today I stare at the faint outline of a rectangle
in the grass where you were buried recently.
Everything is patched up, tidy, so level and flat
it would make a seamstress proud, so different
from those fresh graves of my childhood
in the Midwest, topped by large mounds of earth.
Through the months they gradually settled,
making me think the ground was getting used
to the body, the body was getting used to the ground.
But now the ground and your body have melded
in an instant, as if nothing ever happened here,
and I’m having a hard time getting used to it.

I remember each August when Mother would deposit 
my sister and me at the College of Beauty
in Sioux Falls to have our hair “fixed” for school. 
On the walls were pictures of glamorous women 
with hair tamed into smooth pageboys. It looked 
easy to become beautiful, but for us it was hours
of unskilled hands fighting our fine hair
onto permanent rollers, slathering on chemicals
that choked like the smell of a henhouse in winter. 
When Mother came to pick us up and saw our faces 
haloed by the too-short, frizzed hair, she said:
Oh well, in a little while you’ll get used to it.

We got used to new teachers at school,
being too tall, shoes and dresses that arrived
in the mail from Montgomery Ward’s catalog
a bit off in size and color, the gloomy
blue paint on our bedroom walls that looked nothing 
like the sky blue on the paint chart, the winter cold. 
We had good examples in the cattle who stood
in the barnyard in winter with ice crystals 
on their eyelashes, knee-deep in snowdrifts.
They got used to being crowded into pens, 
weaned, and castrated. Or we could look 
at the boy in my high-school class who 
got used to going without lunch because 
he didn’t have the twenty-five cents, who
in winter wore a red-plaid jacket, 
barely more than a shirt, saying he was used
to the cold. When, at age twenty-six, he hung 
himself in his garage, I wondered if
he had run up against something he couldn’t
get used to. My uncle Bob, who worked
at John Morrell & Co., said that after a while
you get so used to the smell of death — warm guts
and burned flesh — you can eat your baloney 
sandwich at lunch without noticing a thing.