By Moving I Remain–Jeff Burt

By Moving I Remain

 

My thighs make a swath

through the switches and bramble,

tugged, yanked, stuck,

as if this gnarled angry chaos

wanted to snare, entrap,

twirl and catch like barbed wire

curled around a heifer that dared

to batter the fence and zing

the staples shot out and the wire

recoiled and you find the hide

and stagnant hoof of the cow.

 

But I am too old to be stagnant.

I press forward to the yawning light

ahead, the red truck on the dirt road

waiting like a falling sun,

allowing the thorns their cotton twills,

the snags, pricked flesh,

worn patches a marker of pleasure.

By moving I remain.

 

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Resurrection Road–Jeff Burt

Resurrection Road

 

I took a wrong turn, took Resurrection Road

and half-expected an uphill rise

 

but the fields kept sinking on both sides,

first a hint of standing water, muck,

 

then long spears of grass that covered

algae pools and coots tipped over,

 

open pools where egrets waded

and water seemed to brim right at the line

 

the gravel made.  I turned around,

but wondered if we’d had it wrong,

 

that we must sink ourselves into the dirt,

the soil, that our second coming

 

is to rise in a new body of grain

milled by the eager beaks of geese,

 

to rise in a new body of pickerelweed

hiding the three newborn ducks.

 

 

 

Whiteout–Jeff Burt

Whiteout

 

The blizzard obliterated all details.

Outside the snow smothered all color

and man’s enhancements on terrain

and inside did just as well—books

began to lose their words as white space

blew in from the edges, and music

disappeared canceled by white noise.

I started to test the rug as if capped

by a slim ice that I might fall through,

and noticed as the day darkened

my soles had lost all feeling.

No one would have power until the fury passed,

and then it would be pieced back together

like a set of rags is turned

into the cover for a quilt.

 

I thought of you, Donny, so many years

accumulated like one snowfall after the other

that what common ground we knew

has disappeared under this long sheet

of whiteness, our conversation stilled.

When I walk on snow, I still feel

the ruts and swales of history between us,

or like a river in summer turns placid,

gone from spring-melt rage

to a dawdle and dwindling flow,

when I immerse, I can sense

the shape the current took.

 

When morning came

I saw the lampposts first, then

troughs where the roads had been

and the first mitigation of the blizzard

in the chug of a tractor and a farmer

tossing seed onto the snow for birds.

We have not written for many years.

I scatter these words on a new page for you.

Wash Day–Jeff Burt

Wash Day

 

If we say on a particular day

that weather is not significant

it is only because we fail

to acknowledge our insignificance.

I watch the cotton-rag sky,

how the blue jersey wrinkles

with clouds, and at sunset

the one red dot of the sun

dyes the entire cloth.

What occurs this day

among news and history

I will not remember,

but I shall recall

this sky, this sunset,

this transcendence.

I want to shake it,

make it snap in the air,

fold it lengthwise

just so it does not quite touch

the ground, like a flag

that covered a lost soldier,

hallowed for the following day

and how we may live under it.

 

 

El Nino–Jeff Burt

 

El Nino

 

Behind this shadow of lifted rock on White Road

a weathered windmill draws

 

only the cool air of underground rock

to the pump and pail, smells of iron, copper, shale.

 

The thunder talks but never turns.

Dark clouds swagger after one walking.

 

Misplaced Tension–Jeff Burt

Misplaced Tension

 

We go to the loose fields

where the barbed wire pings

from sun warming the staples

that hold it too taut,

a misplaced tension

amid wild parsnips

and plump blue barley,

waxworks wrapped

around fenceposts

like children clinging

to their mother’s legs.

 

The spring pools

dry as summer gathers,

the rebellious cow chews

the few thistles

still tender while her mates

look, look, and look,

any evidence of intelligence

internal. I can’t rest

here, not that it’s an urban

blood that runs in me.

I’ve got the restless leg,

the one that bounces

beneath the kitchen table,

that rubs the back

of the theatre chair,

that seizes up between sheets

and cramps in midnight air,

the one you say is an indication

that I’ll leave you, the one

that’s been there thirty years.

Ralph Tanner–Jeff Burt

Ralph Tanner

 

Your country, Nevada, bees dead, blossoms fertile,

women gone, and the well more sparse tears than weeping.

 

Fingerprints dot the woodwork of doorways

as you pass but no one has been there for years.

 

Words gather, protests thunder,

but drops evaporate before they hit the ground.

 

King Drought curls earth into saucers

preparing plates to capture what falls.  Nothing falls.

 

A starving mustang steals the oats

of your livered pinto, you set out your last bales of hay.

 

You cling like burrs to shoestrings.  You saddle,

the high plains sky no longer full of outlaws.

 

Rappel–Jeff Burt

Rappel

I have narrowed

like canyon walls

into a crevice of longing

so squeezed in

that I cannot squeeze out.

I breathe without depth

long for a sudden

loss of weight,

your forgiveness

like an endless amnesty

widening below.

Light is brief,

a single joy

that passes over.

Moreau River, South Dakota–Jeff Burt

Moreau River, South Dakota

 

Prairie knoll

moon-blue barley,

awn and beard-wagging

over the puddled pond

the coots filter,

glints of mica

on grass-sagging frost.

 

O the wounding precision

of dawn, Dakota sky

a glassy clarity

the mind cannot achieve,

redwings on reeds,

one look and autumn

emptiness filled.

 

 

High Plains Manifesto–Jeff Burt

High Plains Manifesto

 

We can be mountains of love in the mist of despair

and lead the broken reeds of men

who rise each dawn from corporate beds

bent by using and the using up,

stretch our limbs like spans of rope

to bridge the miles of difference

between those who have no vision

and those who see too much.

We can be mountains that echo

drumlins and eskers leveled by glaciers

so Guernseys can be captured by clover,

we can be psalmists for prairie dogs,

the black bear, goose, and the badger,

berries and waxworks on wires of unworked acres,

we can be a winter night when a billion stars

cannot heat the coldest dollar

but inflame the weakest heart.

We can speak mountains of words,

not words as solid as rock,

but words which lift the spirit

like a mountain takes up vision

from the desert floor,

words that raise like farmers

erecting barns born like a phoenix

from the ashes of the old,

words that grow, root and germ, impregnations.

We can speak ponds of green understanding,

speak easy as sepals and pistils to the bee,

pliant as pine to the carpenter’s plane,

as full of beauty as a field of wheat in the wind.