Beautiful or strong
or filled with shadows long;
fragrant or wild,
young like a child;
aged or wise
all truth and no lies.
She just is.
when life runs through you
with the pace of a heavy wind,
the goldenrod and cattails ignite for just long enough
and a horse stands in front of you unmoving beneath the cottonwood tree,
a young steer at her feet
kicking at her fetlocks
and staring into the dying sun,
reminding you to stop and see.
There is a picture I have
of she and I during hunting season
slinking through sage on our bellies,
breathing in the cold November air
and exhaling smoke-like circles that span the distance between us.
Her gloves have the tops cut off
and the tips of her fingers show purple already
even though we have just begun.
the wind is carrying in
a mass of snow-filled clouds;
the first flurries dainty and transient
on the signal-orange of our jackets.
We begin to scale the callous, lifeless rocks
that cover the hummocks between hunter and hunted
then crest the rising hill to see the huffing herd
upwind and unaware of our presence.
My nervousness is obvious, I know.
She watches me from under the tugged edge of her knit cap.
she reminds me.
You’ve got time,
she reminds me
and places her stiffened fingers on my back.
Take your time.
I watch the elk lift their noses to the incoming storm—
their regality unmatched.
With a whisper loud enough to startle them all
I just can’t.
Aren’t they beautiful
she asks, watching them go
and turning the safety on.
Show me how you lift the sky
carrying your red;
show me how you wake and swell
into the billows where we meet.
Show me your crimson veins
over the rooftops and trees and the mountains deferred,
and I will show you how they stand in the cherry-dipped corners of their yards,
reaching high to touch.
See how they hold their children shoulder-high, and smile;
listen to their dogs bark and their horses whinny.
See how some carry the weight of the day in their eyes,
as they focus and stare
and grow lighter as you soar.
Show me your perfect arch into the shadows,
and I will stand in the corner of the upstairs patio
and get my picture taken with you over my shoulder
while I’m laughing,
because that’s something we’ve all done.
At first it was the ocean I loved
then the mountains then the ocean and the mountains again
but now I see it will always be the prairie.
If I could carve out a little hut camouflaged in a verdant bluff I would
spend my days turning circles in the long, gilded grass with the sun watching
the clouds narrate each breath I would
let the wind decide when it’s time to retreat before the prairie toads and pointed
frogs hop about under the brilliant reflection of the moon whispering the word
let the snakes unbothered, carve out their ssssssssses of gold and the
jackrabbits leap for joy over their communal unanimity I would
let the coyotes yip yip yip me into a bottomless slumber of cool air and simple
where bison rise to a bluff under the darkened veil of an afternoon storm and
mustang wildly toss their obdurate heads bucking and cantering
into this earthy outer-space more cosmic and unscathed than what people sail
When you first learned about spiders that float on water
from the mid-summer grass, up-to-your-waist grass;
electric blue dragonflies
and Russian Olives, leaning and dipping their blue-green leaves into the wet.
Jumping fish in the shade,
tadpoles by the weed-dampened edge
and white butterflies, tissue-paper wings flitting around your knees;
each one after my heart
It is hard to hear
the ice cream truck coming around the corner
when something bad happens
in a small town.
You can hold your breath until it feels right again;
you can watch the cars slowly passing—
each one so suspect,
that it makes more sense to lock the doors and stay inside.
But then the errands,
they pile up,
and the recycling needs to be taken to the city bins—
the ones at the east end of town close to the baseball fields.
the sky is pink like strawberry and milk
over the churning prairie
and you can hear the sounds of a solid right-field hit
while the lights over the diamond turn on
and quiet, distant lightning informs the tinted sky.
How you love those players then.
Then, on your drive back through town
after your cans have joined the others with a clang
and cardboard is compressed,
there are teenagers parked and smoking by the 7-11;
they toss their heads back with laughter and derision,
the smell of their smoke wafting down Main
and disappearing when you pass the lake.
How you love those teenagers then.
Fishermen close their tackle boxes for the night
and pelicans balance indelicately on buoyant logs;
a snapping turtle lifts its head with a remitting ripple
and a couple walks arm in arm around the path by water’s edge.
How you love all of it then.
And then you can hear it– coming around the corner where the pinkish sky has followed you home
and where lightning comes with noise now.
It is the ice cream truck,
crooning through the streets and county roads
where everyone waves and smiles
just in time.
The sky was a color that undid itself;
silly putty that covered space over time,
moving south east
from the mountains.
The meadowlark, the cackling goose;
the red winged blackbird filled the air with sound
and without cacophony as many human voices sometimes mean.
A sonata, rather—
their ensemble interrupted only by the snap of mallard wings
rubberbanding from the cattail grass.
The titan nest of a bald eagle swayed in an outlying tree
as the sky had not yet darkened into what it would be.