THE SUPPLY OF OPTIMISM
With the edge of town zoned for industrial use
and the new structureís bricks and pipes shuddering
at the thought of the meatpackers coming to say Hola,
a bell complains, its weight convincing the white steeple
to lean south. It is telling the children to leave, to abandon
the history of bourbon and durum wheat and collapse
into the rings of growth around a city pushing against
the sky. Its peals refer back to the Homestead Act and
the sod houses slipped into the warp and weft of the plains,
back to the old cement plant fighting off the dust and wind.
Here is a tumbleweed going off to die in a strange
land. The tracks of a nation of elks have been smothered
by immigrants who introduced the cottonwoods to
accordion music, conditioned the sagebrush to cattle.
Mourning doves land on the highway to eat the spilled
wheat from grain trucks. They shrug at the future; sometimes
they donít even see what hits them. Their wings are
stuck on asphalt, lifted occasionally by the same updrafts
attempting to raise middle class hopes. These are the folks
who deflate at the sight of their emptied heartland.
Their supply of optimism is stored at the tavern.
Their plans eventuate memorials for the schools, a rock
in a prolonged accord with knowledge that arrived
after it was needed. T he rock is a resident where
the jungle gym once emerged from the dirt,
where the buffalo loafed during their dreams of open prairie.
The tide of the wind on the tall grass comes in and
goes out again, unnerving the rear guard conviction of those
holding on to thin hope in all of the flatland counties.
Somehow, they figure, they were born too late.