Country Procession

Our line of cars crossed narrow spans
straddling fetid spaces with names
like creek, brook or spring,
but in a Kansas August the bridges
merely acted as points of reference.

Experience had each driver maintain
a buffer zone to avoid the rooster tail
of grit kicked up by the previous car.
Cars encountered, tractors passed
in their fields, even folks in side yards—
any activity ceased upon recognizing
the meaning behind the procession of lights.
Hands joined; children got tugged
closer and all manner
of hats, caps, kerchiefs were removed.

Out here, to save time, crops measured
in the mile, but were themselves surrounded
by Whitman’s limitless and lonesome prairie.
Late summer grasses and forbs, burned
and grazed earlier that year, stood
nearly knee-high, but gave no hint
to the complex roots
beneath the surface. The cemetery,
bulls-eyed to a gridwork of wheat, soy
and milo, announced itself with a fieldstone wall
that snuck out from cornstalks, grew
in height, then transformed the last
fifty yards to wrought iron.

Passing under an archway—the letters
of MOUNT HOPE silhouetted with gravel dust—
we wormed through thin lanes
until stopping near the middle of the brown,
brittle graveyard. The sky-blue
canopy—as if a piece of horizon
had dropped to mark the site—set
next to a mound of dirt covered
by a lime-green carpet of fake grass.
With the tent’s artificial shade beckoning,
engines began dying one at a time, doors
popped open, and that was the only invitation
heat needed to join the mourners.

About the author

Trace Estes, managing editor of Alsop Review, lives in the Shadows and likes the view. For thirty-five years, he has been forced to write…

Read the full bio

Issue 02 · December 2008

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