For thousands of years
The Midwest sun woke to prairie.
For hundreds of years
These coneflowers have breathed here
Knowing searing summer’s heat
Knowing wolves and bison
Knowing a long, hard day
Where relentless winter sleep is night
And now they’re all that remain
Of all that remains
Of the flickering remnant of railroad prairie.
Mowed for the “safety” of bicyclists
The prairie is fading into thickening teasel,
Which the cyclists assume is a native plant.
This is getting dangerous.
East of the sporting goods store:
a once-neglected patch of shortgrass prairie.
Powerlines crackle on humid mornings,
people pass on the bicycle trail.
Year after year, corner of Conifer
and Redwood, the prairie dogs
have raised their pups in the neighborhood.
They take walks and squeak and bark,
groom each other, stretch and graze,
keep watch for hawks and foxes.
Tunnel their underground homes, pile up the dirt, run across the street.
A busy life. So much to do.
Sometimes I see them standing
upright to observe the close of day,
the purpling of Rocky Mountains in shadow,
the wind in the cottonwoods and grass.
The smog, the traffic, the FOR SALE
sign on the lot in spring—such things
as I haven’t the heart to witness
myself—they too observe.
Past few weeks, I’ve been hiking
into town using alternate streets.
I cannot bear to see what’s happening;
but today I—somehow—forgot.
East, then south on Redwood, old habit.
Realizing my error, I brace for the worst:
mounds of fill dirt, a leveled field, alien trespass of gigantic white dump trucks,
prairie dogs dead on the road. Already
I resent the humans who will someday
occupy the as-yet unbuilt houses, whose true
costs they’ll never know. I blame the developers,
especially this morning: I see a prairie dog
standing on the curb, her back to the street,
watching the dumped dirt fall from a truck
with a rattle and earth-shaking thump;
braver by far than I, she faces the terror
head on—upright and full of grace.
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