Plainsong

A poem by J.P. Grasser.

 

Hotter days than ever curl the paint

from the barn’s broadside, if not from the same loafing shed

     where our ladders and stepladders fold in

 

     on themselves, but even now, it’s endless,

rolling distance, that familiar wavering 

where road crosses

 

     road—which way?—out

     of signal with no sign

to lean on, but the pastures, they do end.

 

So, enough. Enough with this kingdom

     of pure loneliness wherein certain grace

     certainly lies. Enough wielding

 

fields of the seeming-particular—sandberg

bluegrass, american sloughgrass, nutsedge, mullen,

     needleandthread—for no name can contour

 

     flatlands like these, locked in heat. See, a cloud is,

by nature, deliberation. A decade

looking for you in the inkblots

 

     spreading a leopard

     frog’s back is what I spent, then lo, lo

and behold, out of the blue arrives a text

 

with plenty to glean on cruciform structures

     in plant DNA, which neared

     the feeling, I guess, I guess it did, but to think

 

of what I most wanted and what I loved most

swept to one side, and to consider you

     neck-deep in switchgrass and strangletop

 

     makes nothing happen at all. To look at it

now, you’d never guess, but two horses lived

behind this old house, one grulla and one tobiano,

 

     who made a kind of plain music, at dusk, swishing flies

     from each other’s eyes and whickering after the good,

sweet hay, for whom dust was dirt and what dies doesn’t.

A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, J.P. Grasser holds a Ph.D. from the University of Utah, where he edited Quarterly West. He lives in Montana's Bitterroot Valley and serves as an associate editor for 32 Poems.

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