Here at Live Your Poem it's been a catch-up kind of week. I've been cleaning out drawers and closets, doing some crafting (more on this soon!), reading, and remembering.
On my last trip to North Dakota, I visited the Heritage Center in Bismarck where I learned, among other things, that there are many types of barbed wire.
I also witnessed for the first time, cottonwood fluff.
NORTH DAKOTA IS EVERYWHERE: An Anthology of Contemporary North Dakota Poets, edited by Heidi Czerwiec.
I started reading it on the airplane, and over the past weeks a few poems have emerged as favorites, and I'd like to share them with you here today. I mean, is there any better way to learn about a place than from its poets? Reminds me of an NPR piece years and years about about any mission to meet alien life should include on the ship a POET... if anyone knows anything about that piece, I would love to hear about it! (It was pre-internet days... wouldn't even know how to go about finding it.)
A Moment of Clarity
by Dale Jacobson
The leaves were green flame.
The birch tree was a white journey
from dark water to clear sky,
roots to radiance.
The crow was a long echo that took flight.
North Dakota Sestina
(ending with a line from Psalm 19)
by Rhoda Janzen
Beyond the matchbook parsonage
in fields reduced to stubble,
the rows untangled, as if a comb
had pulled them taut. The sigh
of the wind, sad at harvest, came rolling
like an old-fashioned wagon wheel.
The Leibelts' combine wheeled
around the tiny parsonage,
the great machinery rolling
toward the stiff August stubble.
Hulling loganberries, the child sighed
as she watched the combine comb
the wheat. Mornings, Mother's comb
straightened, thus: the braided wheel
of hair loosened like a sigh.
Racing from the tidy parsonage
to the fields of wild stubble,
the girl, hot, began rolling
her long sleeves. She tripped, rolling
down the incline into a catacomb
of indifferent yellow stubble,
sharp as the spokes of a wheel.
Her mother in the parsonage
came running. and the child sighed,
as if in all the Dakotas one full sigh
could stop the stupid tears rolling
or the thought of the stiff parsonage
and the terrible pull of the comb.
The mother roller her like a wheel,
to see the scratches from the stubble,
but the girl saw on the stubble
collapsing in the filed. She heard the sigh
of the combine finishing its summer, the wheel
of winter like a thunderous silo rolling.
In her hair she spread her hand like a comb
and pinched her eyes shut to the parsonage.
Hair scythed short as stubble, she'd cartwheel
the parsonage and land in the field rolling,
a sigh sweeter than honey or the honeycomb.
The Memory of Water
by Mark Vinz
Here where the Sheyenne joins the Red --
upstream, the Bois de Sioux, and down
the Buffalo -- imagination finds its way
in swirls of white stirred by the prairie winds.
These are the places towns were built,
water flowing underneath snow-covered ice
laced with tracks of skis and snowmobiles
and creatures rarely glimpsed by passersby.
Today I'm home from a desert visit, where
two weeks of rain had finally broken --
arroyos carried everything away
except for the pools on asphalt roads.
How inevitably it all flows off and disappears --
water and what it has been named for --
here, in this glacial lakebed where I live,
still dreaming of the great herds passing.
Also in the gift shop I spied on the top shelf a sculpture of Sacagawea that matches the one my father left for me. "That's yours," he said, the last time I visited him. "When the time comes, that's yours."
Papa said Sacagawea reminded him of me. Now she keeps me company in my studio. And oh, what adventures we are having! Thank you for reading.