Poems

from

Forty Miles of

Nowhere

 

The Haunting of Verna’s Farm
 

Her door knocks at the oddest times

and she runs toward the sound of company,

finds an empty night as the moon casts

a starved light over the farm yard.

In the spring, she spreads bread crumbs

for robins, crows cackle for their share.

God, she believes, watches over

her home like a green-eyed lover.

Her door knocks at the oddest times.

She flings it open to find her dead

husband, his hat in hand,

her love for him a lightning rod.

Gone too soon, he left her with worn

clothes alive with his odor,

a growing brood, tobacco pipes

with teeth scars on the stems.

Too many children died early—whooping

cough, pneumonia—night after night

of bitter gales freeze her tears and her face

withers with the need to call their names.

Daze

No hills. Unchecked wind brings

words of the dead in a language

just north of English. Farms

scattered like matchsticks. Crows

circle miles away. On the farms,

houses stripped to shallow

gray, bare chapels hard earned.

They demand worship in coin unknown

to the young. Everyday magic consigned

to the pig sty. How can anyone measure

love here? On the plains, words

appear on the horizon, jump aboard gale—

a cheap ride to the next folly. Leave

the speakers dazed at their disappearance.

In some places, the dead and the living

are afterthoughts. Not here. Farmers

cling to what they know, who they

know. Their faces hard set against

prairie glare, the prayer on the edge

of their tongues poised for the last amen.

 

 

 

A Thousand Acres
Faded Yellow

The old man and woman cling to their house,

their days limp from his rage, her sorrow.

Geese and chicken strut the yard and wolves

circle closer every day. They keep

the riffraff away. The days offer the same old

insult, the nights’ ghosts shimmering on

prairie’s edge. Sprouted wheat the sure sign

of decay. What is killing them is memory

and hope. The woman sees their children

romp from the barn, screaming in delight

and the old man lives in the days

when he tossed hay bales twenty feet.

They will not visit their dead

at the Mennonite church. If belief

is strong enough, the dead are wiped away

and the children return. Neighbors bring

crude bread and sweet apple pie

and the men sneak a bottle of corn to ease

the pain. At summer’s end, failing

to summon mercy and white clouds,

the couple dies in final denial. The wolves

enter the yard. The trees turn fire red.