Nebraska

In 1921, Nebraska established a state poet laureate position, which is currently held by Matt Mason, who was appointed to a five-year term in 2019. Mason is the author of two full-length, Nebraska Book Award-winning poetry collections, including The Baby That Ate Cincinnati (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2013).

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Homestead National Monument

—Daniel Freeman, first to file claim, Jan. 1, 1863

Here, an abundance of trees, stream, prairie—
enough to sustain a family, prove up this plot of land,
the first of thousands to be claimed across America.

Place that was first inhabited by natives, lodge-
and tipi-dwellers, who also relied on the wood, water,
flourishing wild game—hooved, pawed, and winged.

Prairie, where wild grasses are capable of growing
taller than humans, sustained through heat, drought,
cold, hail, snow, wind, by roots of unimaginable depth.

Today, those lives and roots have been forever altered:
settlement, industry, and agriculture that marched
our nation westward, the trails that led us to homes.

This nation-center of sod-grass that was plowed,
its soils rich, yielding an abundance, the foundation
of farms and ranches that sustain the multitudes.

Here, on the Homestead trails, we touch a multitude
of seed-heads, inhale green-blue-gold, hear the music
of insect-leaf-bird, bridge the creek-flow that connects

us to the past, where we ponder the flow of hope,
hardship, joy, and sorrow of this preserve, from all
that once roamed, to those spellbound as we step.

Sonnet

Alas, that June should come when thou didst go;
I think you passed each other on the way;
And seeing thee, the Summer loved thee so
That all her loveliness she gave away;
Her rare perfumes, in hawthorn boughs distilled,
Blushing, she in thy sweeter bosom left,
Thine arms with all her virgin roses filled,
Yet felt herself the richer for thy theft;
Beggared herself of morning for thine eyes,
Hung on the lips of every bird the tune,
Breathed on thy cheek her soft vermilion dyes,
And in thee set the singing heart of June.
And so, not only do I mourn thy flight,
But Summer comes despoiled of her delight.

Eurydice

A bitter doom they did upon her place:
She might not touch his hand nor see his face
The while he led her up from death and dreams
Into his world of bright Arcadian streams.
For all of him she yearned to touch and see,
Only the sweet ghost of his melody;
For all of him she yearned to have and hold,
Only the wraith of song, sweet, sweet and cold.
With only song to stop her ears by day
And hold above her frozen heart alway,
And strain within her arms and glad her sight,
With only song to feed her lips by night,
To lay within her bosom only song—
Sweetheart! The way from Hell's so long, so long!