Poetry | September 01, 1997
Where Native Grass Grows Loud If We Listen
Out here, cactus is the skyline, a hundred miles of flat.
Turn in a circle and never know you’re back,
except for the neighbor’s ranch, barns like specks of mica
in the dust, his windmill a semaphore of warning, Go away.
East Texas is a myth, black loam and heritage and trees.
The one road into town has highway signs boys use
as targets. The asphalt’s cracked, dandelions thriving
as if crews planted them. Rattlesnakes nap
on the shoulders, no trucks along for months.
Jackrabbits limp along like dogs, nibbling grass
and careless weeds, no need to hurry from nothing
that can hide. Slumped on an aging appaloosa,
I roll a smoke that may take half a day to lick,
to get it right. I dig in deep shirt pockets for a match,
and bite it like a toothpick. I stick the unlit
cigarette like a feather in my hat. I kicked the habit
four years ago after the last grass fire
some trucker started. The butt’s for practice,
in case I’m ever bored. My wife saves rattles
for the grandkids, flint arrowheads she finds,
digging strawberry gardens, prying out rocks
for the fish pond, scooping iron and umber
for sand paintings on the patio. Rocking at dusk
that starts at dinnertime and lasts past Halloween,
we talk softly about a coyote a mile away,
one drop of water bulging at sundown from the pipe
over the brimming-full horse trough, the stretch
and shimmer of the drop before it falls.
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