"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, I see in depths
that make a lens superfluous
and brings equality to every eye.
The plains are heaven.
Beyond me, dust is kicked by a tractor
a storm cometh.
It grants the looker little relief from the inertia of the canvas:
“A purple steel dome against
a stubbled brown disk.”
Truly, this artist knows nothing of depth,
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
or these rains
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 now run out.
The world is washed of its impurity.
And I too
am washed of any notion that I am
alongside such truly gargantuan forces
The Artist brings rain on the godly
lightning starts 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,
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 these frightful and holy ordinances
are distanced by my own calloused arms?
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 at all but look down
the way man once gazed upon 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 high their heads and say,
“God saved me.”
Amid all that damp and mud and death
“woe to me, unclean man that I am.”
Indeed, where once was wealth
and biting fly.
There is no wealth in grain nowadays. Only biting flies.
For today, 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.
just as those who cried here
and we’re answered in musket, shell, and blood,
this land too washed by flood and fire
and also death
which cleansed all of its iniquities
– that water –
with same bowed head
and silence that only Noah could utter
after so great a flood
that destroyed his world
that other world
such that none can proudly say,
“God saved me too.”
252. “Before Hail”
Black Angus clump leeward in a gulch
There are many calves.
And my own dachshunds sleeping on the seat besides
before much hostility.
– all of them –
The kind that know not I
It doesn’t even rouse them
this hail shattered shield
while me a boy,
always a boy
hurtling through hail
among heroes and men.
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 overnight
to shade his scalp from the
inquisition of the Son
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 all cares
for good and evil
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 little else.
Truly, dirt and dust are worthless
lest all be breathed and mingled with breath
And stirred by the finger of He who stirs
and makes alive from that which kills
and only knows how to kill.
Devil walks into bar. Orders drink. Asks Philosopher sitting next to him: “And what do you do?”