Take a model of the world so big
it is the world again, pass your hand,
press back that area in the west where no one lived,
the place only your mind explores. On your thumb
that smudge becomes my ignorance, a badge
the size of Colorado: toward that state by train
we crossed our state like birds and lodged
the year my sister gracefully
grew up against the western boundary
where my father had a job.
Time should go the way it went
that year: we weren’t at war; we had
each day a treasured unimportance;
the sky existed, so did our town;
the library had books we hadn’t read;
every day at school we learned and sang,
or at least hummed and walked in the hall.
In church I heard the preacher; he said
“Honor!” with a sound like empty silos
repeating the lesson. For a minute I held
Kansas Christian all along the Santa Fe.
My father’s mean attention, though, was busy—this
I knew , and going home his wonderfully level gaze
would hold the state I liked, where little happened
and much was understood. I watched my father’s finger
mark off huge eye-scans of what happened in the creed.
Like him, I tried. I still try,
send my sight like a million pickpockets
up rich people’s drives: it is time
when I pass for every place I go to be alive.
Around any corner my sight is a river,
and I let it arrive: rich by those brooks
his thought poured for hours
into my hand. His creed: the greatest ownership
of all is to glance around and understand.
That Christmas Mother made paper
presents; we colored them with crayons
and hung up a tumbleweed for a tree.
A man from Hugoton brought my sister
a present—(his farm was tilted near oil
wells; his car ignored the little
bumps along our drive: nothing
came of all this—it was just part of the year).
I walked out where a girl I knew would be;
we crossed the plank over the ditch
to her house. There was popcorn on the stove,
and her mother recalled the old days, inviting me back.
When I walked home in the cold evening,
snow that blessed the wheat had roved
along the highway seeking furrows,
and all the houses had their lights
oh, that year did not escape me: I rubbed
the wonderful old lamp of our dull town.
That spring we crossed the state again,
my father soothing us with stories:
the river lost in Utah, underground
“They’ve explored only the ones they’ve found!”—
and that old man who spent his life knowing,
unable to tell how he knew
“I’ve been sure by smoke, persuaded
by mist, or a cloud, or a name:
once the truth was ready”—my father smiled
at this—“it didn’t care how it came.”
In all his ways I hold that rescued year
comes that smoke like love into the broken
coal, that forms to chunks again and lies
in the earth again in its dim folds, and comes a sound,
then shapes to make a whistle fade,
and in the quiet I hold no need, no hurry:
any day the dust will move, maybe settle;
the train that left will roll back into our station,
the name carved on the platform unfill with rain,
and the sound that followed the couplings back
will ripple forward and hold the train.