I know I have no right to complain. Friends and family members in South Dakota and Iowa are dealing with below-zero temps today, and that’s without wind chill. But we’re not used to weather that cold.
I’m looking for something to warm things up, so I’m re-posting a poem from the past that conjures warmer weather. This poem came about after driving several hours from Fargo, North Dakota, to Pierre, South Dakota, before and after the 4th of July weekend a few years ago by myself. I could drive for miles and miles without seeing another car, especially on the way back when I decided to take some jogs off the state highways.
It was an odd feeling. So many times on that trip I felt like I was barely hanging onto the earth because I was the only thing moving — and the sky was so large and I was so small. I felt that again in southern Nebraska when I was searching for the farm house of Willa Cather’s My Antonia. I don’t have the line breaks correct, but you’ll get the idea.
Somewhere in the Dakotas
I don’t have a painted pony but a rented Hyundai to speed west across the northern plains.
I feel the might of galloping stallions as the speedometer races past eighty
and I have to rein it in.
Exit signs sing to me like sirens and fathomless waves of fields tempt me to turn at every cryptic crossroad,
to follow them to some lost world like Kathryn or Gackle or Jud.
Miles later when the sun scours every living thing in gold,
including my flaming Hyundai,
it is then that Willa Cather’s words slip from the open mouth of sky.
And if I “never arrived anywhere,
it did not matter.
. . . what would be would be.”
Originally published in South Dakota Review, Spring/Summer 2005