Howard Prairie

by Robin Carey

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People still call this reservoir Howard Prairie.
The white-tipped waves ripple and wonder why,
because water fills the edges to the banks,
and game paths lead carefully down
from every direction to this undrinkable name.

But the nature of reservoirs is such
that old ghosts, drowned and splayed,
float in to the sandy shorelines sometimes,
like the water-logged roots of the  Council Tree,
where  Shasta and Takelma gathered,
teepee stones and fire stones around, and listened,
cries of the cross-bills clearer there, quail calls clearer,
and the meanings of sound, the pooled spring at its base
like an eye of the prairie as a prairie.

I saw a yellowed photo once of this same oak
brought from a dove-tailed drawer,
six gutted bucks hanging at dawn
and the old man's hand that held it
almost fleshless over the bone.

Now the dowitchers cut and swerve
to the difference of water, the occasional
wedge of geese skids in to a  reedy bay,
while the stubborn inland owl, turning her head round
and round, keeps searching the absent hunting ground.

And Howard Prairie, as a name, continues its hold
like settled law, though snags keep washing
unwittingly up onshore and old men keep recalling
waves of tawny grass across the windy meadow.


end of story

© 2019, Robin Carey Go to top