North Dakota

by Jory Mickelson

All my life I’ve
been levelheaded because I grew

up knowing horizon; sky as baseline,
prairie as high-water mark.
The songs my body knows:

the sound of seed head and grass stalk
stirring in the air, the endless chink

chink of irrigation pipe and sprinkler head,
the rise of a meadowlark’s impossible call,
gravel troubled under tires.

Paintings done with light
and cloud across canvasses of alfalfa, hay,

and wheat. Long brushstrokes of storm
front and the stiff scumblings of hail.
All marks are horizontal.

North Dakota exceeds all
harvest and machinations. It rises

sudden in the chest: a crow that calmly
tilts until the farmer’s thresher comes
to rest in that flat expanse, that graded wind.