"Of Gods and Hills"

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I

I follow the course of the Missouri River.

II

Driving south on 29
my eyes go east
toward the loess.

I scan the hillside
for your face.

III

Shiny grain silos
and windmills
and railroad teeth
somewhere around Salix,
cell phone towers in Sloan,
tic-tac-toe grids
of corn and soy
and pasture—

we mold these hills
into strange designs.

IV

In January
not even snow
can cover your tracks.

V

A black-capped watchman
perches
the broken branch of a dead tree.

The tree wears
its brown badge
in its face.

I read my lines
in bark.

The water makes the world.
We’re all in recession.

VI

Gods didn’t build the dams—
we did.

VII

I cross the Solider River.
On the radio
John O’Donohue says
“Music is what language dreams it could be.”

At Exit 95
there’s a giant white sign
with AMOS 4:12 painted in red:
“Prepare to meet thy God.”

VIII

I cross the Little Sioux River.

I see where the floodplain should be.
I’m driving on it.

IX

It’s easy to sign a treaty
when you’re not on the front lines.

X

In the air in waves
Gregory and the Hawk
and the Tallest Man on Earth
go with wind
and silt
to the hills.

XI

There’s talk of thresholds,
from ‘threshen,’
to separate the grain
from the husk.

The poet speaks of the Gaelic
Anam Cara,

‘soul friend.’

We come to this place
together.

It’s about how we cross.

XII

4,700 years ago
at Turin
in Monona County
there were human burials.

XIII

The prairie is in us.
We’re the spirits in the mounds.

We cannot kill
what cannot die.

I’ll keep driving to the night.

—Ryan Allen

 

Immigration in Nebraska