Here between the sheds of the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians, here now a morning star fixes a fire sign over the timber claims and cow pastures, the corn belt, the cotton belt, the cattle ranches.
Here the gray geese go five hundred miles and back with a wind under their wings honking the cry for a new home.Here I know I will hanker after nothing so much as one more sunrise or a sky moon of fire doubled to a river moon of water.
- After the sunburn of the day
- handling a pitchfork at a hayrack,
- after the eggs and biscuit and coffee,
- the pearl-gray haystacks
- in the gloaming
- are cool prayers
- to the harvest hands.
I am here when the cities are gone.
I am here before the cities come.
I nourished the lonely men on horses.
I will keep the laughing men who ride iron.
I am dust of men.
You came in wagons, making streets and schools.
Kin of the ax and rifle, kin of the plow and horse,
Singing Yankee Doodle, Old Dan Tucker, Turkey in the Straw,
You in the coonskin cap at a log house door hearing a lone wolf howl,
You at a sod house door reading the blizzards and chinooks let loose from Medicine Hat,
I am dust of your dust, as I am brother and mother
To the copper faces, the worker in flint and clay,
The singing women and their sons a thousand years agoMarching single file the timber and the plain.
I last while old wars are fought, while peace broods mother-like,While new wars arise and the fresh killings of young men.
Appomattox is a beautiful word to me and so is Valley Forge and the Marne and Verdun,
I who have seen the red births and the red deathsOf sons and daughters, I take peace or war, I say nothing and wait.
- Rivers cut a path on flat lands.
- The mountains stand up.
- The salt oceans press in
- And push on the coast lines.
- The sun, the wind, bring rain
- And I know what the rainbow writes across the east or west in a half-circle:
- A love-letter pledge to come again.
- Towns on the Soo Line,
- Towns on the Big Muddy,
- Laugh at each other for cubs
- And tease as children.
Here I saw a city rise and say to the peoples round world: Listen, I am strong, I know what I want.Out of log houses and stumps—canoes stripped from tree-sides—flatboats coaxed with an ax from the timber claims—in the years when the red and the white men met—the houses and streets rose.
What eaves of skyscrapers against a smoke moon?
These chimneys shaking on the lumber shanties
When the coal boats plow by on the river—
The hunched shoulders of the grain elevators—
The flame sprockets of the sheet steel millsAnd the men in the rolling mills with their shirts off
- what brothers these
- in the dark
- of a thousand years?
The sun puts out the stars of the skyAnd the headlight of the Limited train.
Snow hats are on the rolling prairie hills.The Mississippi bluffs wear snow hats.
- O farmerman.
- Cram their insides till they waddle on short legs
- Under the drums of bellies, hams of fat.
- Kill your hogs with a knife slit under the ear.
- Hack them with cleavers.
- Hang them with hooks in the hind legs.
Sprinkles of dew on the crimson-purple balls.
The farmer on the seat dangles the reins on the rumps of dapple-gray horses.The farmer's daughter with a basket of eggs dreams of a new hat to wear to the county fair.
- Marching corn—
They are mine, the threshing crews eating beefsteak, the farmboys driving steers to the railroad cattle pens.
They are mine, the crowds of people at a Fourth of July basket picnic, listening to a lawyer read the Declaration of Independence, watching the pinwheels and Roman candles at night, the young men and women two by two hunting the bypaths and kissing bridges.
They are mine, the horses looking over a fence in the frost of late October saying good-morning to the horses hauling wagons of rutabaga to market.They are mine, the old zigzag rail fences, the new barb wire.
There is no let-up to the wind.Blue bandannas are knotted at the ruddy chins.
The frost loosens corn husks.
The sun, the rain, the wind
- loosen corn husks.
The men and women are helpers.
They are all cornhuskers together.
I see them late in the western evening
- in a smoke-red dust.
The phantom of an old hunting dog nosing in the underbrush for muskrats, barking at a coon in a treetop at midnight, chewing a bone, chasing his tail round a corncrib.
The phantom of an old workhorse taking the steel point of a plow across a forty-acre field in spring, hitched to a harrow in summer, hitched to a wagon among cornshocks in fall.
These phantoms come into the talk and wonder of people on the front porch of a farmhouse late summer nights."The shapes that are gone are here," said an old man with a cob pipe in his teeth one night in Kansas with a hot wind on the alfalfa.
Look at six eggs
In a mockingbird's nest.
Listen to six mockingbirds
Flinging follies of O-be-joyful
Over the marshes and uplands.
Look at songs
Hidden in eggs.
When the rain slants on the potato hills and the sun plays a silver shaft on the last shower, sing to the bush at the backyard fence: Mighty Lak a Rose.
When the icy sleet pounds on the storm windows and the house lifts to a great breath, sing for the outside hills: The Ole Sheep Done Know the Road, the Young Lambs Must Find the Way.
O prairie girl, whoever leaves you only crimson poppies to talk with, whoever puts a good-by kiss on your lips and never comes back—There is a song deep as the falltime redhaws, long as the layer of black loam we go to, the shine of the morning star over the corn belt, the wave line of dawn up a wheat valley.
I have loved the prairie as a man with a heart shot full of pain over love.Here I know I will hanker after nothing so much as one more sunrise or a sky moon of fire doubled to a river moon of water.
I speak of new cities and new people.
I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes.
I tell you yesterday is a wind gone down
- a sun dropped in the west.
I tell you there is nothing in the world
- only an ocean of to-morrows,
- a sky of to-morrows.
I am a brother of the cornhuskers who say
- at sundown:
- To-morrow is a day.