Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Cottonwood Tree/ first draft

Drifts of cotton snow
Line the roadway.
In the air they spin and dance on invisible currents.
First up,
then away,
finally resting,
from it labor
to a giant someday…
a seeming sturdy tower
(the heartwood’s cracked whispered the wind…)

It’s branches reach to cradle the clouds on it’s fingertips.
The mud sucks at the surface roots and overcomes the radicle-
the aggregate of leaves-foliage-articulates the language of the wind.

a solitary figure,
nestled in the pasture slope,
fencing the wheat field
from the cattle.

Our playground,
A slippery slide to the ditchy depths
of thunderstorm excess.
The sun, incandescent, heat radiating,
Scorching freckles on our arms.
We could smell the wheat ripening
Golden and glorious.
We shelled and crunched the seeds between our teeth
as we forged a path and played hide and seek with our dog.
(Run. Run. Leap.)
He bobbed and weaved through the strands…

The Cottonwood tree sheltered in its arms (branches)
the ladybugs in winter, the cattle in summer,
cottontails with poofy cloud tails, shying from chicken hawks and coyotes,
Bull snakes feasting on field mice,
and two little girls running from the reality of a Father’s impending death.

We’d wrapped our sun burnt arms around the scabrous trunk –
rub our tender noses in the cracks,
smelling secrets,
whispering to the cambium our desires.
The itchy bark against our forearms,
Sweat drying
and prickly heat robbing our shade.
We’d strip to undies,
Fling our clothes to flop against the shallow roots.
(We feared our mother’s anger over muddy clothes)
The toast water skimmed over our freckled skin
till our eyes peered out froglike.
It was heavenly hypnotic in its coolness and forbiddingness.

Later walking home, abreast the ripening heads of winter wheat,
The dog scouting our path,
We were lost amidst the wheat, the sun, and our impending sorrow,
Foretold one night of our Daddy’s death.

We thought ourselves clever to hide our mud-soiled undies under pile of dirty clothes.
I’m sure our mother knew that forbidden adventure
in ditch water had happened again.

Much later,
after a Father’s death,
and the years left the farm behind,
the memory of that refuge tree
gathers me close in it’s sheltering arms.

Every time I glimpse a cottonwood
or glance at the fluff flowing in the air,
I silently wrap its memory around my body,
and hug the bark:
A soft pillow of comfort
in memories of 2 little summer girls,
burnt in death.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Kansas- completed?


This land,
it suits me,
gloves my hands in dirt
(soil, earth, loam, terra firma)

shoes my feet,
roots them,
entangles them in a weave
of Timothy, buffalo, blue stem,
bottlebrush, and foxtail millet:
a living body suit.

I grow upon the horizon.
The wind tosses the chaff,
like stalks of my hair.
I morph to the wind.
A machine, giant upon the hills.
Ancient energy for a 21st century.


A garden
of wild onion,
earthy tastes,
on a baking summer day.
Cactus hidden in buffalo grass,
snares the bare feet.
Sandburs jab, bring blood to a child's foot.
Devil's claws hook and pin into ragged denim bottoms.
Tumble weeds caught in barbs and fried on electric fences.
All created to keep me here
in mind, in soul, in imagination...

In this garden
Adam would have named the flower "sun".
Eve would have reached for a wild plum,
Growing in ditches, hidden spring water.

Walking in that garden
there'd be no live bushes
to hide behind;
just tumbles of weeds
blowing across the grass.

God would call the wind
to sweep the hidden horizon
to unearth
fleeing man and woman...

The snake would rattle with his lies,
and the woman would crush his head
against a rock.
A rock that would stand
never fall,
a limestone wedge planted in the earth.

In the prairie Garden of grasses
God would form man of loam,
Rich in wormy compost.
The breath would be the wind,
held back against the Osage orange
and cottonwood tree.

The rivers, rich brown
with runoff life,
water the grassy fences.
To the East to the West, to the South, to the North-
The Saline, the Smokey, the Solomon:
Trifecta under an angel’s sword.

The snake coils, hidden in the sun of limestone posts.
A rattle in a baby’s hand
(a baby that would smash his head)
From one man’s fall
(tripped on a rock)

came all
puncture vine, goat head, sand burrs
that vexed me as a child.
Fire ants that bite, thistles stuck in fingers,
wasps stinging flesh.

Came another man’s rise:
The sun pinned upon the rolling hills,
Like some bug stuck in a formaldehyde jar
and mounted on a styrofoam tray.

That killing jar could not keep
Him pinned upon that hill-
No stone left buried in the loam,
could hide His body from the day.
His Word, His Water, His breath,
His body and His blood,
keep me still in prairie grass,
growing stems skyward,
roots trenched in terra firma.
Walking windward on God’s breath.