Where I’m From (Prairie edition)

I’m posting this as a shout-out to my Writing as Inquiry class at UNL this fall and to practice composing blog entries.  Look for more place blogging this semester!


I am from big skies and anvil-shaped storm clouds rolling over the prairie while I stood on the picnic table in the back yard and dad called in the weather’s spotter’s report

from the thin, muddy Platte, its shifting sandbars rising and falling in the eddies below country club houses on the bluffs,

from the tiny cemetery in Giltner, Nebraska—its sparse windbreak of cedars standing tough against the prairie wind and guarding our uncles under their stones,

from the black walnut tree on the old farmstead, site of my first and only tire swing, its hard green fruit rolling under my cousins’ feet while we played tag.

I am from the Moustache Joe Polka Show danced across Grandma’s glittered linoleum Sunday afternoons,

from Dad’s three-chord rock-and-roll thumping up from the basement stereo,

from bullshitting Irishmen cracking open Bud after Bud like commas in their never-ending stories,

from Friday night leagues and watching Dallas in the bowling alley bar, and the clanking of casinos,the rumble of racetracks, the rattle and hum of distraction blurring into ritual.

I am from salmon patties and scalloped corn, from grated carrots in orange jello and hamburgers piled up on the old blue metal platter next to the “good” hotdogs, their red skins split to bursting,

from enchiladas wrapped like giant ho-hos, chicken and noodles with mashed potatoes,

from crunchy oven dressing and green beans with onion crunchies in cream of mushroom soup,

from the endless shame of buy-one-get-one free coupons, one for each kid

sent with a few dollars to stand shyly at the counter

to get dinner for half the price

and perhaps only three-fourths of our pride.

And now I am from pricey fair-trade dark chocolate, rose-flavored gelato, snobby, stinky cheese and shrimp vindaloo at restaurants with white tablecloths,

sometimes with coupons and sometimes without,

from bolero and bachata, danced across tasteful laminate now, though in the same kitchen,and a barking yellow dog chasing squirrels up the old black walnut tree.

I am from ivory towers and cramped classrooms,

from starlight and firelight, from candle light and moonlight, hippy summer camp drum circles and Hemingway nights  with rum and writing and reckless love.

The thin, muddy waters of the Platte run through me still, their shifting sandbars rising and falling through my heartland heart

opened up wide and humble under the thunderheads long ago,

calm now, again, in the prairie wind.

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