by Steve Gaines

this far flat space
land of long-distance sunsets
and storms that approach forever
along a darkened horizon

this Nebraska
wheat field flat
and home of the longest straight stretch
of highway anywhere
fifty-five miles without a bend

a place that stretches out your mind
moves you through time and space unobstructed
…nothing but the occasional shelter belt
to block the view
a ninety percent sky that fills the frame with blue
a fathomless sea on an endless vista
apropos of all the insipid metaphors…
and painted with trains and trucks
in a beeline for the next border
like the summer lines of corn
reaching into infinity

the long low Platte river
maker of its name
flat water…
from the old ones
back a millennium or two

people spread out thin on the ground
with room to disagree
and keep their own counsel

a cauldron of extremes
from July to January

the Summer…
able to melt down the thickest resolve
and Winter…
frigid enough to bring time to a stop
where the nineteenth century still shows through
at the thin places

drought so thirsty you can’t spit
bright morning’s turned to inky night and back
in the passage of a front
schools and enterprises brought to a standstill
in the echo of a late Spring storm
simple reminders of nature
little warnings aimed at the complacent farmer
with his crops in too soon
or the urbanite pushing the tomato season
in the vain hope of some bragging right

a broad experience of the Midwest’s geography
a long drawn out introduction to the Rocky Mountains
somewhere out there to the West

the place I was born into
back when it was still a dust bowl
in July burning like a comet
one hundred and sixteen degrees…
a powerful heat
unairconditioned memories of my Mother
who wrapped me in wet sheets just to ward off that swelter

no wonder I came out a little over-done

sixty years now of my history
defining my own sense of place perfectly
right here in the middle of things
scanning the distance
three hundred and sixty degrees
of alternative places to be
but here I am!
still only two miles from where I started this journey
still comfortable out here in the open
in the middle of a million acres of nowhere
watching the world race by
on its way always to somewhere else

here without walls or other barriers
flying in the face of physics
and other natural laws
that define the universe
I feel at home…
unfettered somehow
unfenced in by the miles of open space…

everywhere to go
and no place better than where I am