By: Keith Moul
After Sunday teachings, children sing paens to Jesus.
At other times children sing of soldiers in death grip
serving in armies of the Lord. Or they listen around
and create new lore: The Bee Gees are staying alive,
but one girl hears“stick in the light, stick in the light.”
Children like other songs now.
Local story tellers speak of the Indian massacre,
as if natives’ executions, surviving soldiers’ lives
and legends ordained through decades of rubble
could spur sweet children to sing songs of valor.
Children’s voices vacillate: parents had long sung
songs thrilled with imagination, then first doubted,
then drifted insentient into silences.
Children promptly grew to adulthood, often pushed
by wind to new paths that arrayed stars in new ways.
Prairie Minds Choose
As an apolitical, his thought ran to common sense,
not partisanship; his forethought, often engaged,
was to worry at being chosen; an actual choice
thought most suitable among a range of opponents,
so many liable to resist change and say their prayers.
Shy in the public arena, he had holed up, a veteran;
during this time, he drafted and redrafted his refusal;
he felt decidedly cowed by cruel, persistent majority
of whose motives he had never had reason to doubt.
Party advisors, rarely called on, said his future was
as ineluctable as any they knew these many years.
Under cabin fever, he mustered only “tinkling brass.”
Labor spreads its aches; sleep after labor relays
aches into trackless dreams, revolving the mind.
My limbs when I was young could be refreshed.
Not so for dreams that advance memory of men.
So often still troubled, I thrash amid alien oceans
peopled by spirits of dead friends and enemies: all
justly claiming sizable holdings of my extinction.
Prairies kill easily: first seduce the prey; then loll
their scent to any scavengers that, unknown by us,
sneak around our intolerance; hosts by possession;
occupiers burdened with unnatural ideas and biases,
threatened by enormities; or laden by common fears
for the land, the wind, the climate or alien presences.
I forever believed my labor fulfilled family promises;
I expected upright reckoning, someday an end of debt,
exuberant welcome homes conferred after other wars.
In old age, prairie adages confer on me convictions of
truth: the ever-running stream, systemic morality, rich
soil, orchard sweetness, God’s gifts, my certain heritage.
Keith Moul has written poems and taken photos for more than 50 years, his work appearing in magazines widely. His chapbook, The Journal, and a full-length volume, New and Selected Poems: Bones Molder, Words Hold were recently accepted by Duck Lake Books. These are his ninth and tenth chap or book published.
These poems follow the voices of pioneers over wide plains of the U.S. Keith Moul, born in St. Louis, has lived among these voices, owes them fealty because people survive the plains under the most adverse conditions. He has come to appreciate the knack to this bravery, now much later in his life.