Friday, 28 February 2014

Nebraska 18 - Ted Kooser, 'So This Is Nebraska'

Having decided to take on the theme of Nebraska and run with this, initially because of the often comic references to it, especially in film and song, as a rather remote nothingness, I have increasingly reflected on the State, and especially Omaha, as the place of my birth and therefore significant in defining that part of me which remains inherently and often surprisingly American, not surprising because of any resistance – far from it – but because I have lived most of my life here in England.

In then researching other reflections on the State and its largest city, as well as different areas where my family and I have lived, I came across the fine American poet Ted Kooser, born in Nebraska and someone who writes about it with great affection but also visual and emotional clarity. I should also stress what a fine poet he is in general, tagged the ‘Poet Laureate of the United States’, and whose collection Flying at Night I am currently reading and from which I will at some stage post a non-Nebraskan poem. But for now, here is one aptly titled

So This Is Nebraska

The gravel road rides with a slow gallop
over the fields, the telephone lines
streaming behind, its billow of dust
full of the sparks of the redwing blackbirds.

On either side, those dear old ladies,
the loosening barns, their little windows
dulled by cataracts of hay and cobwebs
hide broken tractors under their skirts.

So this is Nebraska. A Sunday
afternoon; July. Driving along
with your hand out squeezing the air,
a meadowlark waiting at every post.

Behind a shelterbelt of cedars,
top-deep in hollyhocks, pollen and bees,
a pickup kicks its fenders off
and settles back to read the clouds.

You feel like that; you feel like letting
your tires go flat, like letting the mice
build a nest in your muffler, like being
no more than a truck in weeds,

clucking with chickens or sticky with honey
or holding a skinny old man in your lap
while he watches the road, waiting
for someone to wave to. You feel like

waving. You feel like stopping the car
and dancing around on the road. You wave
instead and leave your hand out gliding
larklike over the wheat, over the houses.

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