"prairie's not a woman after all"
How to hold the whole of her within
your heart? You land here like a sandhill crane—
intending to move on as seasons change.
For now, the cottontails thump through grass.
Clusters of spiderworts blush indigo.
Some dawns, the sky can swallow you alive:
flesh and mind and soul. The wind keeps blowing
unobstructed, snarling your psyche.
A girl inhales the scent of corn and soil.
A farmer slaps his belly with a laugh
like the haunches of a sow that’s off
to slaughter. You are here. You cradle this
moment in your arms as bits and pieces
of lullabies well up within your throat
and catch against your windpipe like a bone
as other words replace them on your lips:
silence, loneliness, Nebraska. They mix
with notes of laughter like a robin’s song
that falls onto your shoulders, weighs you down
with a barrage of joy. Then you remember—
prairie’s not a woman after all,
yet like your body, but a site of awful
beauty that’s been plowed into submission.
Spring will come. It always does. The snowmelt
of this feeling washes everything
away like dust: the husks of last year’s harvest,
the specks of memories, the pesticides.
Katherine Hoerth is the author of five poetry collections, including the forthcoming Flare Stacks in Full Bloom (Texas Review Press, 2022). She is the recipient of the 2021 Poetry of the Plains Prize from North Dakota State University Press and the 2015 Helen C. Smith Prize from the Texas Institute of Letters for the best book of poetry in Texas. Her work has been published in numerous literary magazines including Literary Imagination (Oxford University Press), Valparaiso Review, and Southwestern American Literature. She is an assistant professor at Lamar University and editor of Lamar University Literary Press.