We borrow from the land what we can but cannot
return to it: bluestem, coneflower, boneset, broomcorn,
a ring-necked pheasant tied to a pole, a flat stretch of land
we strip and tar and pave, a creek that gets deeper
as it downrivers, its edges spoiled with runoff.
We collect seeds from the sunflowers and sow them
like quilt pieces, a little scrap of prairie rose here,
scrap of meadowlark feather there. Tamp down
the soil with plodding hooves, steel-toed boots.
Listen as the tallgrass rattles its dry stems,
cottonwood leaves quake as they remember mountain
lakes. Listen to the grain trucks rumble the highway.
We startle at the deer who startle at our footsteps.
A tree frog croaks from its harddark hole in
the otherwise empty change slot of a vending machine.

Copyright © 2024 by Sarah McCartt-Jackson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 5, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.