When . . . On the Prairie #1
When as a child,
I sit at the foot of the prairie,
crouched in dust and shattered grass,
grasshoppers tangling themselves
in my wind-tattered hair,
I fill my mouth with pebbles and stones.
My tongue moves them round my mouth,
explores the shapes and iron taste.
I feel the smoothness in equal part with the hardness –
the silk with the endurance,
the facility with the clumsiness.
A long meditation
as I sit with the prairie,
sucking on ancient stone and bird-egg pebbles.
When as a young woman,
trying desperately to look candid
with wind, always wind on my face,
a hand sheltering my eyes from the sun,
I scuff with my booted toe
bird bones in the dust,
revealed on a day
when the gossamer wind, always wind
stirs the silted ground.
Bird bones thin as glass,
hollow as reeds,
as light in the bluing sky as a mote of dust,
or a drop of rain.
Now mere memory
on a hot, friable day
when grasshoppers jump with a rattle
and hawks keen in the eye-scorching sky,
bones and dust stirred together
by the touch of that gossamer wind.
When as an old woman,
I walk the rambling fence line
in the purple mauve pink evening,
with an old dog that promises loyalty
but chases hopefully after gophers and gnarls at magpies
at further and further distances from my side.
I find that there are such things as tumbleweeds
and that they do pledge their love,
just as old Marty said in his old cowboy song.
They blow to my legs and my hips
and whisper don’t leave, . . . don’t leave.
And I see the wisps of things that came, also, to this fence
leaving scraps of themselves behind.
The hair of red cattle, the wool of black sheep,
the bones of a mouse picked clean
by a muttering owl.
And later, when the lupid moon hangs heavy and
luminous in the umbrae sky,
and the frogs have stilled their trill to a . . . breathlessness;
when the prairie night wind gust-whispers round my ears
and the coyotes begin their banshee songs;
The drive-weary calves move restless,
mourn for their mothers,
Scud their tongues round their lips,
dreaming of mother milk and warm flanks.
I sing to still them, to calm them with a mother-bellow-like run of notes,
taking the call of the yodel-perfect coyotes and turning it to lullaby.
The sounds I sing curl round me and calf alike,
and our loneliness
tucks itself behind the moon.