This got me thinking of my mom’s family back on the prairies. Bonus mention of the composer Dvorak and his summer visits to Iowa.
Twenty years ago, my father stops
in the small farm town where he was a boy
to watch his nephews, already men, play softball.
The long arc of a ball hit toward the far corner
leaves the light behind for a long sigh.
He told us later he wanted to stay that night.
When the harvest is late, the ground too muddy,
the players will wait until the earth freezes, then harvest
all night, the sodium lights of expensive combines
eerie as UFOs on the horizon, ringed by frost stars.
A family cemetery dated 1949 holds now the second
generation after the immigrants, and a few small graves
from the third. It will all last another generation or two,
be tended, that cemetery, the games in the park.
Dvorak visiting in Iowa caught it once,
as it retreated from him, a country that could
not be his, although he called it a new world, and brave.
His largo captures all he would know
of native melody, the indigenous music of the plains
that will outlive everything we’re losing, everything we are.