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.

More by Janice N. Harrington

Shaking the Grass

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.

Related Poems

I Don’t Know What You’re Called, I’ll Call You by Your Sounds

dew grass a fire shine
mountain a lung
pine cone the bone
tsunami rock hawk jaw
gravity a fall all consuming
a song chirp for sunlight
spine daggers cracking
the sky an ocean paused in its crashing
creature shake trip whistle
rustle nut squirrel swish
stump thunder or thump
thump a swallowing
you beautiful urchin
you rot mound of moss.