Song of the Flatlands
For Idaho, and for Kansas
Listen. Can you hear us? We are here,
in the slow rain of eighteen-wheeler tread,
in cricket din, the tallgrass thicket whipping
like a brushfire eats, Listen, the morning sweats
its birds, the jet trails are a music hanging by its wire
in the sky, which we see all of, day and night.
Listen: This is where they make soldiers.
This is where your trash is buried,
this is where we keep your stars.
Listen: terrible beehive of the wind farm
distant rifle, cuckooing backfired pickups,
Listen, your metrocard is useless here
your impeccable shoes impractical
to step and feel the wet seep in your toes
this is where water comes from, where it goes.
Listen: The wind is killing something in the snow
and it’s alright. This is where blood eats blood.
Where all the wild things are. Listen:
There is nothing to tune in for, no vital
capital in streets, no ghosts for miles.
This here country is bully pulpit for the Lord.
Listen: the derricks sigh like seesaws in a
steel ball-bearing lilt. This is where oil comes from.
Where wood comes from the ground. We are born and we die
just paces on, but when we go we must go far—
and usually on wheels. This is where people manage
on what wisdom they inherit, on what words are washed and washed
and still can be made to seem new. This is where new things go
when they’re tired. Listen: can you hear
all of the distance to the shore? Nothing can touch us here,
save tragedies to which we are accustomed. This is where
television goes when feeling guilty, or ashamed. This is where
everything you ever ate was born.
City, these days you have three neighbors
out of every four. We are the few now,
and we’re having trouble getting on. This is where
nobody asks us much just what we think, anymore.
In case you wondered, this is where all that Budweiser’s sold.
Listen, City: were we to quit, to just set down
and rust, you wouldn’t be long for this world.
But we bet you can’t say the same. Listen:
we know that we have sinned. Even our children
run from us, even in health our numbers dwindle.
But we buy. God willing, we buy and we’ll keep on
buying till we get what you have promised us, fulfillment.
Fill us up. City, can oh can you can hear the world
not of your making here? Isn’t it queer? Listen:
it wants to live and to consume, just like we do,
but somehow what’s consumed in wilderness is soon
reborn. Which aisle is that in your mathematics?
Listen: We are not our hats. We are afraid so vastly more
than you: of change, of loneliness, of losing what we worked
so hard to make our own. Listen: you will not hear the sound
of easy millions. You will not hear the promises of teachers or professors.
What you’ll hear are fathers shouldering their burdens
onto sons, and daughters dashing hopes like unmanned ships
upon the reefs of marriage. Listen:
What you’ll hear are mewling cows knocked, bled and quartered,
custom tailpipes, hungry children smacked around. What you’ll hear
are coyotes, grain belts, kids smack talking beneath booming echoes
as they’re walking down the corn. The chatty wind, the skittish tress.
You will, most of all, hear us wanting, getting, building, killing,
spending up our lives by quarters in a jukebox turned way down.
Even so, we don’t know who you are either, and we don’t give two shakes.