Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy 4th


I can't think of a better celebration of Independence Day than to reproduce the following poem from my husband Don Koozer's new book The Road, from Bellowing Ark Press. This particular poem is a celebration of Americana and a remembrance of an American boyhood. And nothing says U.S.A. like lots of eats. Enjoy the holiday, and have some watermelon and corn on the cob.

THE PLAINS
It was a thistledown time for a boy,
A time of white frame houses
With porch swings,
And bells ringing out
From steepled churches;
A strawberry and shortcake time,
A time of watermelons
Cooling in tubs of water,
Of buttered corn on the cob,
Of eggs fresh from the chicken nest
And milk bottles waiting on the porch;
Of the silence of mornings
Broken by daybreak and the rooster's crow,
Of family gathered around the dinner table,
Of short pants and stubbed toes,
Of fishing poles and bobbing corks
On quiet lakes,
Of fried okra, corn bread, and butter beans,
Of mute imposing oaks
Climbed by chattering squirrels;
Of dandelions, four leaf clovers,
Grasshoppers, and hound dogs;
Gardens of tall corn stalks,
Climbing pea plants, pumpkins,
Hollyhocks, morning glories,
Petunias, and honeysuckle.
And the plains,
Beyond, like the great soul
Of earth and sky,
Was always the plains.

The land was a sacred realm--
Grasslands reaching beyond the horizon,
Towering cottonwood trees
Lining banks of winding creeks,
Red dirt country roads
And windmills beside tanks of cool water,
Skies filled with
Ten thousand stars,
Moonlight shining off
Fields of green wheat,
The spirit possessed
Howl of coyotes,
Catfish and cooing doves,
Soaring hawks and hooting owls.
The quiet days seemed endless,
And the nights,
A bewildering star-filled mystery
That filled the heart.

In the evenings my mother
Would call me from the fields
Where I played
To the brightly lighted house.
There was always food
And family and safety
In the aura of the glowing chandelier.
But I knew that a part
Of myself was elsewhere,
Beyond the circle of light
From shaded lamps,
And the boundary of homes
With neatly mowed yards.

For a few hours I belonged
To the sphere of light and family,
To the ticking clock
And singing radio.
But later, lying alone,
Beneath the blankets
In the unlighted bedroom,
I felt the sacred darkness
In my heart and all around
For a thousand miles.

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