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Poet Patricia Kirkpatrick reads three poems from her collection, Odessa, published in December 2012 by Milkweed Editions.
Near the end of summer.
Wheatfield with lark. With swift,
longspur, and sparrow. I see the birds
opening tails and wings
and hidden nests.
Soybeans with bells, yellowing, green
tassels of corn, geese
again and again.
I see the birds
but wind takes all the sound.
Small towns are reduced to chains or storefronts,
Almost to the river called a lake, gray stones of water,
dammed, white-capped, hinge
Some fields are so gold they seem to be singing.
The gold fields lie down, flat but not empty,
and will be harvested later with blades.
I come to a place where the end is beginning.
Where the light is absolute, it rises.
I drove through Sacred Heart and Montevideo,
over the Chippewa River, all the way to Madison.
When I stopped, walked into grass—
bluestem, wild rose, a monarch—
I was afraid at first. Birds I couldn’t identify
might have been bobolinks,
I am always afraid of what might show up, suddenly.
What might hide.
At dusk I saw the start of low plateaus, plains
really, even when planted. Almost to the Dakota border
I was struck by the isolation and abiding loneliness
yet somehow thrilled. Alone. Hardly another car on the road
and in town, just a few teenagers
wearing high school sweatshirts, walking and laughing, on the edge
of a world they don’t know.
Darkness started as heaviness in the colors
of fields, a tractor, cornstalks, stone.
I turned back just before the Prairie Wildlife Refuge
at Odessa, the place I came to see. Closed.
Empty. The moon rose. Full.
I was driving Highway 7, the “Sioux Trail.”
I could feel the past the way I could in Mexico,
Mayan tombs in the jungle at Palenque,
men tearing papers from our hands.
Three hours still to drive home.
Why is it delusion to regret
when everything is given
and given, never ceases
but is changed
what has been lost
the grass, pristine
water and shards
before the corn was wheat
but sanity to trust
fields burned to save
the earth I did
truly love you my love
for you lost
in what has not yet happened
Reprinted with permission by Milkweed Editions, from Odessa by Patricia Kirkpatrick. Copyright © 2012 by Patricia Kirkpatrick.