Prairie Poetry

Author's Note: June 26-29, 1804, Lewis and Clark camped at the Missouri and Kansas River junction. Two men were whipped for being drunk on duty. "Kaw" is the local name of the Kansas.


  Kaw's Point

When we slid our pirogues into the muddy water
I heard Hall and Collins groaning at their oars.
Their backs still bled from the lashes they'd absorbed
For drinking whiskey while on watch last evening.

We left cold ashes on the point beside the rivers.

The Konza town where we would have parleyed
Was abandoned; but the country all about
Looks very fine, bright from flowers,
Rich in topsoil, lush with trees.

It was a pleasant place to bide.

We rested here before advancing up the valley
Where limestone bluffs on either hand
Block our view of what's beyond,
New, unknown, enticing, dangerous.

Three nights we stayed.

Camped behind a rough-piled palisade
We dried our powder, hunted, patched the boats,
Surveyed the junction, checked supplies,
Talked about anticipations, fears, hopes.

Strange lands lie ahead.

We'll greet, or fight, nations we know by name alone,
" Hidatsa," "Mandan," "Crow," "Shoshone,"
Sounds we've learned from traders coming down the river,
Yarning of boundless prairies, lofty mountains,

And, at the end, the vast Pacific tide.

  John I. Blair
  Copyright © 2004 John I. Blair
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