Evening, and all my ghosts come back to me like red banty hens to catalpa limbs and chicken-wired hutches, clucking, clucking, and falling, at last, into their head-under-wing sleep. I think about the field of grass I lay in once, between Omaha and Lincoln. It was summer, I think. The air smelled green, and wands of windy green, a-sway, a-sway, swayed over me. I lay on green sod like a prairie snake letting the sun warm me. What does a girl think about alone in a field of grass, beneath a sky as bright as an Easter dress, beneath a green wind? Maybe I have not shaken the grass. All is vanity. Maybe I never rose from that green field. All is vanity. Maybe I did no more than swallow deep, deep breaths and spill them out into story: all is vanity. Maybe I listened to the wind sighing and shivered, spinning, awhirl amidst the bluestem and green lashes: O my beloved! O my beloved! I lay in a field of grass once, and then went on. Even the hollow my body made is gone.
The wind then, through seams of bluestem,
or switchgrass swayed by a coyote’s passing.
Where the fabric gapes, Barthes said,
lies the sensual. A prairie cut
by winding seeps, or winds or shearing wings.
Mare’s tails, mackerels, cirrus,
distance dispersed as light. Under a buzzard’s bank
and spiral the prairie folds and unfolds.
Here between the stands of bluestem, I am interruption.
I rake my fingers over culms and panicles.
Here seeds burr into my sleeves, spur each hem.
In a prairie, I am chance. I am rupture. The wind—
thief, ruffian, quick-fingered sky, snatches a kink
of my hair. The broken nap falls, wound round
like a prairie snake, a coil of barbed wire, a snare
for the unwary. In the fall, volunteer naturalists
will wrench invading roots and scour grassy densities
with fire. Wick, knot, gnarl, my kindled hair
will flare, burn, soften into ash, ash that will settle,
sieve through soil, compost for roots to suck
and worms to cast out, out into the loess that raises
redtop, turkeyfoot, sideoats grama,
and all the darkened progenies of grass
that reach and strive and shape dissent from light.