250-255

"If the sun is lord of the plains..."

250. “A Storm Cometh”

To range across the high plains of America is an exercise in perspective
of inconceivable power and incalculable proportions and
also the smallness of life,
– my smallness –
which is also its trifling insignificance.

Indeed, where feeling lacks, the sun enlivens
where deaf, the wind quickens
where anosmic, manure rouses
where blind, sight is restored by depths
that make lenses superfluous
and brings equality to every eye.

The plains are heaven.

Beyond me, dust is kicked by a tractor
a storm cometh
which grants the looker a little relief to the inertia of the canvas

A purple steel dome against
a stubbled brown disk.

Truly, this artist knows nothing of depth,
nor contour,
nor shade of color at all,
at least not that which I, so small, can ascertain.

The artist doesn’t care.

The plains are hell.

Yet to call these clouds
a “storm”
or these rains
a “shower”
or any such diminutive thing
is to shame that artist
who knows only grandiosity
and power beyond power
and ways beyond ways
and measure beyond measure

Day becomes night

The farmer curses the sky
and the sun
for both have run out.

And the world is washed of its impurity.

And I too
am washed of any notion that I am
great
in anything
alongside such gargantuan forces

The Artist brings rain on the godly
and reprobate
alike.

How far?

I proceed.

How far?

Nothing changes:
lightning starts nowhere
ends nowhere

then comes a billboard of Christ
erroneously depicted, as always, in his dandied European fancy.

Such a ravishing judge,
who will scald the world in wrath,
how beautiful.

Only one thing moves
– a pumpjack –
and by it do I return home.

Mine the same black sludge that
courses the veins
beneath my soles.

How far?
Again.
How far?

How far are these frightful and holy ordinances
distanced by my own calloused arms?

How far?

251. “After Calamity”

If the sun is lord of the plains,
and decrees men howsoever it will,
then the River is lord of the delta

He that snakes and slows and speeds and rounds
and flings wide its arm
to hurl its damp, leaden snare
so that men can do nothing but look down
and stare
at toes
as some still shade their gaze from drowsy emperors.

For when the air is thick and weighty
no man can look up proudly and stride forth boldly

Nay, not even Noah and his seven
could ring their heads high and say,
“God saved me.”
Amid all that damp and mud and death
only,
“woe to me, unclean man that I am.”

Indeed, where once was wealth
now grain
and biting fly.

There is no wealth in grain, nor biting fly nowadays.

For now, just as then, the sting of gnat
brings the judgment of the Creator
upon both the godly and ungodly alike,
so that they, like Noah, who knew no war
should know it too
and cry thus continually for deliverance
with all those who are likewise bitten.

We cry
just as those who cried here
and we’re answered in musket and shell and blood,
this land too washed by flood and fire
and also death
which cleansed all of its iniquities
– that water –
now
us too
with same bowed head
and silence that only Noah could utter
after so great a flood
that destroyed his world
that other world
this River
such that none can proudly say,
after calamity,

“God saved me too.”

252. “Before Hail”

Black Angus clump leeward in a gulch
before hail
There are many calves.

And my own dachshunds sleeping on the seat besides
before much hostility.

What trust?
– all of them –
what trust?
The kind that know not I
such thoughtless
mindless
trust.

<Dear Lord, please
please.>

It doesn’t even rouse them
my pups

this hail shattered shield

while me a boy,
always a boy
among
heroes and men

driving erratically.

thank God
thank You, God, it’s not April.

253. “For Leviathan”

Sun so proud upon the treeless plain
a king whose rule has known no threat for
all these ancient years
his glory great to shake the shining rank of proud
and haughty men.

Today, I know the joy of Jonah
when the fig sprang overhead
overnight
to shade his scalp from the
inquisition of the sun
while waiting for His holy judgment
from which I too ran and still do run

His horror, mine,
our withered tree
our glinting shafts

and now no eye to watch that wretched city
that did not burn.

“The Lord destroys the righteous
and ungodly alike.”

Toss, then!
Toss all cares
for good and evil
into seas
for leviathan
to consume –
that righteous instrument of God.

‘Better to be in the acidic belly of God’s will
than to see the destruction of one’s enemies,

than to see my will unfold upon the earth.’

254. “If Nothing Else”

If nothing else,
the Great River keeps green
all within its delta

despite the attempts of sun
and shaft of ray
to blanch the earth and make it dirt
and dust
and little else.

Truly, dirt and dust are worthless
lest all be breathed and mingled with breath
and ghosts.

And stirred by the finger of He who stirs
and makes alive from that which kills
and only knows how to kill.