In the spring
the snow crystallizes and glints
the sun now has some warmth
black patches appear in the fields
the creeks and rivers overflow their banks
people say hello again to their neighbours
everyone a little older
(everyone who lives here is a little older)
there are not so many children

In the summer
the air smells like wheat
the wind makes waves in the fields
the cicadas hum like electric wire
the gophers stand like sentinels
on the side of the roads
watching the farmers in their arachnid machinery
fighting against fate season after season

Everyone has left the little towns
each of them with their shops closed
1959 never ended here
the last good year just wore away
there is no butcher shop, no bakery, no dairy,
no movie theater
everyone watches DVDs but that is no Saturday matinee
for 35 cents with popcorn and a Vico
there is no more railway line
no lonesome whistle
the grain elevators vanished
with the spirit of the place

whose country is this, anyway, where such things could happen?
by whose will did this all disappear?
was no one watching?

the Chinese restaurant miraculously remains

the small cabin
that stood here
falls into disrepair
and settles groaning into the prairie dust
its contents vandalized

the cardboard insulation can now be seen
an entire family in three small rooms
a log cabin
a hundred years after the American frontier
were the people who lived here rich or poor?
what was the value of the kerosene lantern at night against the darkness
of the eternal sky?
What is better, now, than the fire in a cast-iron stove warming feet in socks frozen by the chill air and frigid ground?
there is no comfort in the absence of threat
but it was backbreaking labour
and sentimentality comes easy from a distance

the bright summer sun shines into the abandoned barn
through the suspended motes
dancing in the light
there are the smells of dust and horses and hay
a stadium for mice
the door has settled into the ground and can no longer be opened
you might squeeze through
and see the skeleton of a coyote lying in a corner of the stable
or maybe it was an old dog
that crawled in here to die

the iron tractor wheel that served to hold water from the pump in the yard
is rusted and overgrown by grass
the blacksmith shop
a little factory
can barely be distinguished from the ancient granaries
except by those who knew it
the caboose for winter schoolchildren has become grey with age

while the people who built these things to last
turn silver
they slow down
and then they disappear
one by one
along with this past

In the autumn
everyone prays
that it does not rain
that it will not hail
that it will not freeze
that it does not snow
four such miracles rarely occur together

In the winter
the snow blows snakelike like desert dust
over the highways

everyone wishes that what was built
would remain
just because something is good
does not mean it will last