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Friday, 23 September 2011

Meanings of the Plains


Dirt Road, eastern Colorado High Plains
: photo by DrunkDriver, 17 March 2009

A volleyball game with Sam's friends the plumbers
ride out to a farmhouse off E. 75th Street where the flat land begins
96° on June 21 at 9:00 pm
Heat lightning in the purple dusk & large dramatic pink cloud masses
the front range with the sun going down behind it
some kind of biting bugs no taller than a six-pack
dusty girls having trouble with their serves
coke makes an abandoned red gas pump get brighter
22 exciting volleyball games, co-educational
riding home through the buffalo grass
into the very short night

from A Short Guide to the High Plains, 1981

Buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides), Garryowen, Montana: photo by Matt Lavin 5 September 2007

Buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides), Hammond, Montana: photo by Matt Lavin 6 September 2007

Buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides), with pistillate inflorescences comprising spikelets fused into a burr and clusters with the leaf sheaths, Garryowen, Montana: photo by Matt Lavin 5 September 2007

File:Mountains from westlands.jpg

Colorado Front Range, with Mt. Evans on far right, as viewed from the Plains to the east
: photo by Adam Ginsburg, 31 December 2005


Marcia said...

I love the dirt road and telephone poles - reminds me of the painting in your dining room. And buffalo grass - well that brings back fond memories of the prairie, too. Your poem captures that life perfectly.

ACravan said...

The look, feel and sound of this, both in images (3 photographers’) and words which marry up quite unexpectedly, are great, and June 21 memories of 22 volleyball games transmitted on Sept. 23, really brighten a gray day in the Hudson Valley that looks nothing like this. Except (basically) for the Denver airport , I’ve never seen Colorado or a dirt road anything like the one in DrunkDriver’s picture. But I can really feel and, I think, smell the buffalo grass. And I really love “some kind of biting bugs no taller than a six-pack.” Curtis

TC said...


The poem memorializes (!) a friendly social event out in the flatlands east of Boulder, where the great long slow almost-level downslope of the prairie begins. Summer evenings of dry heat, thunderheads and crackling streaks of heat lightning across the ocean of buffalo grass. The plumbers definitely had more fun than the poets. The biting bugs had a lot of climbing to do to get over the litter of spent six-packs. "Those were the days."


That painting and several others like it were an attempt to capture something of the space and distance and loneliness of those places. Those paintings were done in Colorado. At that time I liked to ride a bicycle out past the flatland burgs, Erie, Hygiene, Louisville, into the great Nowhere. Perhaps now the suburbs stretch out that far. But that was thirty years ago; places you'll never see again have a way of locking themselves into your memory, in the way they were, and that's finally always more interesting than "the way we were". The various waves of "we" and "us" may come and go, the prairie will still be there.

But haven't we just been talking about this? that endless quilting folded into your Grandmother's tapestries...

Robb said...

"coke makes an abandoned red gas pump get brighter"

"riding home through the buffalo grass
into the very short night"

so good, so gressil

vazambam said...

The Plains so different from the landscape that surrounds us over here but the light......

Thanks for digging this up and serving it to us.



Autumnal Equinox yesterday morning, 2:04 AM, some high pink clouds in pale blue sky last night after sun set (after fog burned off)

"into the very short night"


light coming into fog against invisible
ridge, song sparrow calling from branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

seems to be, which was that
followed by a part of

sleep, a distance, contrast
between light of body

grey white fog on horizon next to point,
tree-lined green of ridge above channel

TC said...


Large clouds here.

First rain of the season tomorrow?

Another La Niña, says the weather oracle.

"Hope you enjoyed your week of summer. A nice little cold front will move in from the Gulf of Alaska this weekend," says the newspaper.


Nothing better that a wrestle with a gressil in the buffalo grass.


There is a definite spike in attention when you are here.

How about the Triasian Plains?

When I lived in Athens one summer ('64) I went poking about in search of the great husk of light hidden within the wheat sheaf in the mysteries.

But Eleusis was a freeway with three refineries, a soap factory and a sea of smog.

No Mysteries, it was plain.

Still the light was hard and glancing. A devastation of hazed luminosity.

You are out there on the Peloponnese Periphery however are you not -- I imagine you in or near Arcadia.

Elmo St. Rose said...

60,000,000 buffalo gone to
defeat the indians...the greatest
sacrifice of a food source in the
history of man

high plains given to an emptyness
violence as in the drying wind
cold nights...beating sun

highplains drifter the eastwood
movie captures the vacancy
of the avenging angel

librarian of the great plains
says words are warming, warmer
than the vista, the wind and
the night

Anonymous said...

When I last drove across the country, from Ohio to the San Francisco Bay Area, back in 2007, I recall noting and feeling a strange poignancy, though it was all really on the level of suspicion more than anything else, concerning the relationship of geography and cultural personality. The A-cup plains, the ruinous vibrancy of the desert, mountainous eruptions, end-of-the-earth cliffs, these all speak as much of, if not necessarily fully or adequately define, landscapes as they do people, I thought. The relationship between the two may not be decisive, but which real & true relationship ever is.

TC said...

The running tabulation of movements through space are the human record of the history of that space. Thanks very much then, Elmo and Brad, for adding pertinent angles of experienced perspective to the general view:

an emptyness
violence as in the drying wind
cold nights...beating sun

the vacancy
of the avenging angel

a strange poignancy
on the level of suspicion...

the relationship of geography and cultural personality. The A-cup plains, the ruinous vibrancy of the desert, mountainous eruptions, end-of-the-earth cliffs...


These testimonials of witness now become aspects of a collective picture, the memory-map overlaid upon the unconscious "immemoriality" of the landforms -- which have both remembered everything that happened upon them, and forgotten it all.