Bottom Prairie

…and it was my first introduction to the state which
was to be my home. I tried to make the dismal looking
bottom prairie through which we were passing look
cheerful and homelike, merely because it was Illinois.

Christina Holmes Tillson
A Woman’s Story of Pioneer Illinois
A new state of being alone in outskirts,
half neighborhood, half byway
of city passengers travelling out of,
out to Chicago, Saint Louis, Memphis,
Indy. Where else to break but a gas
station ringed in chains? Yet no slide by
for the steadfast, well-lodged
on lakeshore lawn, substantial home
fluting between the long-standing family
ranches and rebuilt brick bulwarks
of success. No pass through, prairieland
a patchwork lost in the links, country
club housing the unnatural grove
busting sightlines, corn skirting out
its horizons. Round and Forked,
Cotton Hill, Drennan’s no match
for agricultural expanse, mollisols
such deep soil to hold root. Natural
reclamation of land to a use,
the wild to its rural settlement.
No beauty of fieldwork can stop
the highway rush. No corn stalk
grants glory in bloom. Plains to cross,
commotion just beneath the birdnotes.
Between the carpet fibers. Desire
with the dust and dirt. Powder poured
out of the child’s small hands. Dried leaves,
pebbles, bark broken into the curiosity
of a mind that does not yet know. Home.
Our possessions are not enough
to fill this space, so each room remains
empty in foreign linens and drapery.
Nothing here, but the choice to feel like,
long for. A flood of dazzling light
across the grassy main. Northern hills,
blue sky rimmed in pond water,
and strands of birch holding spring
in tight bud as long as they can.

Crab Orchard Review, Volume 18, No. 2, 2013