PoemoftheWeek.org
HomeAboutMastheadJoin POW ListserveDonateArchive
Sandy Longhorn

04-26-08

1976

 

Summer of the Bicentennial— shiny new quarters,

diesel fumes and Swisher Sweets, Daddy's hand

 

on the tall gear shift of his snub-nosed Freightliner,

weeks on the road with nothing but the radio,

 

his coming home a ritual of air horn and hissing brakes.

One weekend he taught us the ways of the river,

 

how to force up the dead with the cast of a grappling hook

and a pair of muscled arms.  Night's I dreamed

 

that the great blue heron folded her wings and entered

the water like a stone, like the woman who jumped

 

from the bridge a mile upriver— her blue dress surfacing

the same shade as our mother's, the river mending the hole

 

they made, water glinting like the surface of a coin,

air shimmering with dragonflies and Daddy's thin blue smoke.

 

On The Great Plains' Eastern Edge

 

People here don't dream of falling, but the opposite

of falling— of drying up and being blown

 

across the far-flung horizon during months of drought

when topsoil embeds itself in every surface—

 

sheets hung on the line to dry, shut eyelids,

hair up in a braid, firmly clamped lips—

 

when even good roots can't hold and there's no water

left in the well to wash it all clean.  Every year

 

when the twisters come there's a new story

about your grandmother's neighbor pulled from sleep

 

and shaken like a tablecloth before being dropped

in the family plot to rest beside her husband,

 

dead these twenty years, or the minister and his wife plucked

from the closet where they huddled clutching the Bible

 

and each other and set down without a scratch

in the yard, not even a ripped page to show for it.

 

When the rains do come, by God's own grace

and after a dozen farmers are dead from self-inflicted

 

gunshot wounds or a noose swung over the hayloft's beam,

those who remain dream of the swelling up, the washing

 

away and slow drowning— a different kind of falling.

Our bloated bodies come to rest in the muck

 

of gray-green lakes.  The silt makes room,

shifts in the gloom and the bluegills come, curious,

 

the pike, resilient, to nibble at cotton fibers,

spitting out buttons and clasp to get at the heavy, rotting flesh.

 

Lover, Say Prairie

 

Say prairie and mean an underground sea

watering the roots of tall grasses that sway

like the thin bodies of girls dressed in sackcloth.

Mean the sharp angles of sodbusting plows

that mirror the men who guide them, whittled down

by work, weather, and wind, men down to sinew

and sweat, down to the stunning silence.

 

Say prairie and mean the song of the canary,

caged to accompany the lone woman

in her house made of dirt and sod, the one

window, a warped portal looking out on the flat

horizon, miles and miles until the sky weds the land,

a hazy, indistinct joining, the way their two bodies

meet under a quilt in the insect-loud night.

 

              -from Blood Almanac