Prairie Poetry   
Gammal Fäbodpsalm

The deep backward bending of the prairie grass
makes this nineteenth century woman
think of sailing, of how sick the ocean
made her, her daughter, how she would ask

her husband for fresh water, how he'd descend
to a dark hold below their own and return
too long later, her throat so burned
by then she could not speak. At the end

of the gray blanket of sky, came riding
across Ohio with blank German women, a pair
of young Norwegian men who held their
arms tight to their sides as if hiding

parcels. Then, this Illinois sea, a lightning
covered sky, and twelve foot high stalks
knit so tight at the root it took an ax
to bring them down. Down in the tightened,

dense weave of the bluestem, she felt
her way to a clearing. Down in the thick
dirt she dug her way to a root ball, sick
again with a dream that she had left

her daughter on that ship. Staring down
from a moraine, she sang in Swedish,
Gammal Fäbodpsalm; she said in English:
Now. And waded into the limitless, unmown

acres of terror and comfort, the hymn
and the vision of a Smaland pasture
full in her forehead with those four
months, the child's blanket, unpinned

like a sail as she fell through the calm,
like a sail as leaden as an old, bleak psalm.

David Wright
Copyright © 2002 David Wright
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