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Poem: How to Know a Prairie Poem

Books & Poetry

In today’s Poet’s Corner, Ellaraine Lockie pictures her American home state of Montana.

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How to Know a Prairie Poem

You can see it on a morning drive
through a Charlie Russell painting*
Where an apricot sun splashes summer
over the Northern Great Plains
Wild roses compose in ripened pinks
and sunflowers margin the trail
across a sagebrush spotted sheet of prairie
Cottonwood trees slant in cursive created by a breeze
And clouds colour bucolic viewpoints over Square Butte
in changing inks of blue, green and violet

You can hear it with windows down
on your Ford Explorer
Garth Brooks ejected at the first
meadowlark’s six-note warble
Its meter already measured by Mother Nature
Accompanied by tires pounding their gravel crunch
governed by a thirty-mile-an-hour metronome
Cadence replaced with the beat of background crickets
after you pull over for a picnic

You can taste it in slices
of homemade Montana-wheat bread
wrapped around chokecherry jelly
and chunky peanut butter
Washed down with lukewarm coffee from a Thermos
and dark chocolate that melts in your mouth
Caffeine and feral funnelling through your fingers
for a first draft in a journal you keep in the dash box
While a few feet away a family
of cottontail feed on purple clover

You can smell it like clothes fresh from the line
defining the air in an endless
blue and white marbled dryer
A sea of native grass and sage scents
narrated by waves of wind
with whispers from a skunk-drunk coyote

And inhaled smoke-signalled history
on hillsides pulls you back a century
into printed accounts of cowboys and Indians
Who bring their stormy past
onto the blank page of the present

You can feel it down to your feet
the unforeseen drum roll of thunder
As though a distant herd of buffalo hooves
is thrumming nerve endings
The sky suddenly spilled and smeared with black ink
But it writes in a deluge of translucent drops
that soak to skin before you can reposition
your picnic to the Explorer
Where you wait out the twenty-minute diatribe
along with Garth Brooks
Until the West’s first poet touches your soul
with its perfect meadowlark lyrics
And leads you to the exit
of the painted sun replenished prairie
*Charles Marion Russell, 1864‒1926, dubbed “the cowboy artist”, storyteller, author and artist who created more than 2000 paintings of the Old American West.

poet-ellaraine-lockieEllaraine Lockie is an American poet and non-fiction writer who lives in the San Francisco Bay area. She was born and raised in the Big Sandy and Bear Paw Mountains region of Montana, to where she returns regularly for extended stays at her log cabin. Lockie has received a number of writing awards, including 27 nominations for the US annual Pushcart Prize, one of which was for today’s poem. As well as appearing in literary magazines, journals and anthologies in the US and internationally, she has published 12 chapbooks of her poetry, including ‘Where the Meadowlark Sings’, which received an Encircle Publications award, and from which today’s poem also comes. Her 13th chapbook is due next year. Lockie teaches poetry workshops, and is the poetry editor for Lilipoh magazine. More of her poetry, and availability of her publications, can be found readily on the net.

Readers’ original and unpublished poems of up to 40 lines can be emailed, with postal address, to poetscorner@solsticemedia.com.au. Submissions should be in the body of the email, not as attachments. A poetry book will be awarded to each accepted contributor.

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