On the Wind That Won’t Quit, Just Before 8 o’clock
I am windburned.
My skin radiates, would melt you
like a pair of popsicles slipped into
a hot mouth.
today, yesterday, tomorrow,
knocks garbage cans into the street;
yellow finches sway with the buoyant feeder,
maple seeds spinning like helicopters.
will wake me, will remind me
of a single-wide in the middle
of the prairie, of running across
an open yard in the middle
of the night to the safety of a
I wish I had this picture:
me, no more than six,
posed in my mother’s
pom pom girl outfit.
My hair is a haystack,
bleached at the top,
brown legs poking out,
It is summer, and I
am silly, and there
is no wind.
Of all the things that drove my
father out of the flatlands,
the blowing, the stinging,
should have been
that last straw.
The Old Red Trail
Mid-December: I am on my way home.
slicing through cornfields that give way
to sugarbeets that give way to pasture,
mapped with the criss-cross of cattle trails.
My used Ford is packed with three semesters
of grad school, overstuffed like the cannoli
I ate at the State Fair last summer, that tasted
like deep-fryer and, somehow, New York City to me,
though I’ve never been.
The drive is long like a 36-inch inseam and as
predictable as cheap, canned beer on a Friday evening.
I scan the horizon for something amazing:
a pack of leathered bikers with frozen beards.
A plaid-hatted farmer doing a little
controlled burning that is suddenly, uncontrollable.
It’s quiet this afternoon, though. Still as well water.
I need something loud,
but as tenderized as this stretch of I-29 is,
the radio crackles and hisses and proselytizes at me.
When the numbers finally stop on a clear channel,
it makes me sad. Today, Paul Harvey
isn’t sweet, and he doesn’t remind me of the farm.
Today, his old voice talks of a pregnant woman
found murdered and childless, of
a Philadelphia orchestra conductor who threw
himself out of a window. Almost,
I begin to cry.
It’s winter. The land at the Dakota border
is beaten down by wind and bone dry.
Nobody is talking snow.
The Boot Falls Heavy
… the barn is gone now, too …
The boot falls heavy on a slice of metal,
the earth gives easy,
and a tanned wrist hauls another shovelful away.
Once, this is all they had.
Muscles, tendons, knuckles.
The sweat-smoothed wood of
Rakes, shovels, pitchforks, an axe.
Hay fever, clogged ducts, shafts of light
falling onto the warped floorboards.
He thought about what was ahead–
broken ribs, pain and blood and promises and sighs.
Daybreak and hail. Birth. Concrete and chicken coops
and raw, tender hearts.
He thought about her. He thought about his grandchildren,
a spark decades away, so faint it was almost imperceptible.
He thought he would put up a basketball hoop; someone, maybe sometime,
might like to play a game of Pig.
He had a way of standing. Always in profile, hands on hips, face
tilted toward the scoria ground.
Shadows cast onto the orange-pink shards, long and lean.
Squinting, he looked into her face, and she rubbed the
raised veins on the back of his forearm, the calloused web of his hand.
She had a way of smiling soft.
He did this all for her.
They liked evening best. Mourning doves
called from across the dimming yard, persistent and plaintive,
the sinking sun glinting
off the dusty panes of the barn, waning and hopeful.
Meatloaf in the oven.
A spark flares quick,
interrupts the quiet air.
LINDY OBACH is originally from the edge of the North Dakota Badlands and currently teaches introductory English courses for the University of South Dakota. As a poet, she is most interested in notions of home, identity, and the prairie.