To think beyond two sunrises
marks a prairie man as indecisive.
To decide badly under cosmic influence
may affect everyone living on earth.
To believe life parallels the sun's future
accepts the ties of prairie to light and heat.
My body tickles at a thought among many.
I fear the immensity of the Milky Way, one
galaxy among a trillion, each a trillion stars.
Per ancients, caught in mind's daily darkness,
a cat paws the constellations, unseen in blue sky:
hecatombs of oxen foreshadowed this cat.
The Unready Passed
When asked what he found to do here,
great/great grand dad answered “Everything.”
Homestead Act of Congress, 1862
My family history on this land begins with the Homestead Act.
We inherit what that means; we live lives; we do our line credit;
and we prosper, as augury and sign of foretold destiny fulfilled;
we bear our history in our hearts, on our sleeves, show gratitude.
A creek bed with trees lured us to erect a house and outbuildings.
On the journey our baby unnamed, and a calf, died after exposure,
for a time limiting even breath to the tops of our noses, but so fast,
fixing our bloodless hearts in ice and passing regret to the future.
Arrival on our 160 acres, work was a dead lock on our motion;
no breeze cooled our fever; we drank no rains to slake our thirst;
then snows filled the west, fell on us unready, not yet with heat,
ice layered as thick as a frozen lake sealing its torpid fish below.
Our sixth generation, my children, will salvage life and go on.
Everything needs doing, is still expected: rest comes at the end.
My neighbor said: “Damn! You see
and are touched by the old sincerities.
I see them in your face too.”
My time here rushed past highway signs for sixty years
with a man’s observance of speed limit; my family settled
for this clotted soil, raspy as cobs in places, a hundred years
before that. I have never denied, nor been capable to deny
the old sincerities. People here consent to them as an act
of faith, the draw of salvation, the whitest astral light shone
on buildings at the horizon, opening our northern treasure
to an entire, intelligent universe wanting to know our state.
Yes, as a young boy, I heard garbled voices incoming on wind
(yet no one known to me at hand); aliens, or chickens perhaps
squabbling over corn could make such sounds, if blown away
when day prodded the prairie restless. Superstition can be rife
among rural lives that seek most answers in holy text, although
as a practical, daily matter, I call all of them the old sincerities.
Keith Moul’s poems and photos are published widely. In August, 2017, Aldrich Press released Not on Any Map, a collection of earlier poems. These poems are from a new work about prairie life through U.S. history, including regional trials, character, and attachment to the land.