The South Dakota sun sat low, diffused,
and hung the sky in shrouds of brooding gray.
The wind sliced through my parka’s shell, my shirt,
my skin and pierced, it felt, my marrow. More
than that, it covered all the other sounds
with a howling sort of silence. The crops were in
-- we walked the barren fields for pheasant cocks –
and from toe of boots to line of sky, the rose
was bare. With stomping boots and raucous talk
we tried to scare the birds from furrow holds
behind cut stalks until forgotten prairie homes
appeared and made us stop.
....................................................I walked as if
among the graves of kin, with lighter step
and whispered words. The last to live here are now
long dead, but it’s not for them I show respect.
It’s more the loss of dreams they loved and way
of life they shared. It’s more the closeness to the earth,
the knowing your own hands to be enough.
A couple stood upon this piece of land
and said, “This is our home: It’s here we’ll have
our babies; here is where they’ll bury us.
This is our place on the turning sacred wheel.”
A flock took wing and flew to hide behind
the barn, but my eyes were fixed on the house’s eyes,
a wall of darkened panes staring back.
Upstairs, a tattered curtain is hanging still.
I knew the room was small – I guessed a child’s,
with flowered walls, a ceiling slope, perhaps
a toy remaining once the pox had gone.
As if a dream, I saw small hands
push back the drape, and a hopeful face
peer out. The porch roof sagged in slow decay,
but in its shade I saw them, Ma and Pa,
to share the evening breeze, so cool against
the day amid the summer’s fields. A dog,
a mongrel dog, with shaggy, matted coat,
rolls in the dirt out front to shake his fleas,
then sits up straight, its nose into the wind
to catch the scent of game. They pay the hound
no heed: their thoughts are for each other.
Together they work, together they love, and there
together they stay. They ask for nothing more.
This home has much to say, in a sort of song.
I wondered: Do the men who plow these fields
take pause to hear? I turned and stomped away.
I’ve long since left those hollow eyes,
but still they follow me. They always will.