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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.

When . . . On the Prairie #2
When . . . On the Prairie #3
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