Something dated from July.


The secret of the Upper Midwest under
the cold winter snow and by the lakes of summer
is a cozy gemutlichkeit familial merciful
and so I remember your red nose,

Grandfather today on Epiphany (your
birthday) how you leaned over the Christmas
fireplace stiffly (past 70 years) to stir the sparks
of last year’s evergreen as the colored rays

of the little lights played in your snowy hair
and as the ghost of Mary Negus dressed
bright as a cardinal drops deeper reds
(Ethiopian rubies and sealed carnelians)

across the snow and as the laughter of Florence
Ainsworth penetrates like Minnehaha
or mouth of Nile through the endless ach-ach
peace pipesmoke of Edward S. (a censer-

rifle) and as the children gather by your feet
they are ghostly now as these ghosts gathering
in my lines when the front rolls in like a wraith
from the southwest spreading a wide fan

of shadows and rain over the prairie
maybe you’d be by the upstairs window,
looking out through the big black bars
of the oak tree toward the gash of the river

moving there, hidden between the steep slopes
and Dad will get up and put down the paper
music curls on the bench and as rain pulses

down and the storm finally breaks maybe
you’ll see the strange incandescence the
last light burning through beneath
the storm and your face like a

smaller star, leaning there
against the clear pane –


Gemutlichkeit or no it’s the story of a star
I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger
and the people don’t dream; they work
a long, long way from my home

active, energetic, prosperous, practical
the happy result is manifest all around in
the substantial outside aspect of things,
and the suggestions of wholesome life

(but Marion City is an exception.
Marion City has gone backward in
a most unaccountable way. Doubtless
Marion City was too near to Quincy.)

like Henry Clay Dean if the ground had been
sodded with greenbacks scarecrow Dean
in foxy shoes, down at the heels, socks of odd
colors, relics of antiquity a world too short

small, stiff-brimmed soldier-cap hung on the
corner of the bump of a just audible ripple
of merriment (forearm unprotected) which swept
the sea of faces like the wash of a wave

and now the stranger stepped back one pace
nobody listening, everybody laughing and
whispering (along here, somewhere
on a black night ran some exceedingly

narrow and intricate island chutes
by aid of the electric light. Behind was
solid blackness – a crackless bank of
it ahead a narrow elbow of water, curving

between dense walls of foliage and here
every individual leaf and every individual ripple
stood out flooded with a glare as of noonday)
passed Prairie du Chien after some hours

progress through varied and beautiful scenery
reached La Crosse. We noticed that above Dubuque
the water of the Mississippi was olive-green
rich and beautiful and semitransparent,

with the sun on it. And I remember Muscatine
they use the broad smooth river as a canvas
and painted on it every imaginable dream it is
the true Sunset Land so good a right to the name.

Go upstream deeper into the green caverns
as in all these Upper-River towns the majestic
bluffs this region is new blanketed with
Indian tales and traditions Draco

and Romeo and Juliet of White Bear Lake
and the bear caught her she and the blanket
you get yourself all worked up about the
blanket snowed under like a star in a Kali-

black stoneboat pivoting he began life poor
and without education on the curbstone
with his book unconscious of the tramp of
passing crowds to let a dray pass

unobstructed there are many soothsayers
in Scythia but the class of effeminate persons
called “Enarees” use a different method
take a piece of the inner bark of the lime-tree

which they say was taught them by Aphrodite
and cut it into three pieces which they keep
twisting and untwisting round their fingers
as they prophesy when the king of Scythia

falls sick Lincoln had known only this quiet house
he was six when his sister Irma flew in the door
with the white man she announced she was
going to marry “Later on” Sioux

Lincoln bolts swoops slams out of the house.
Until the unholy train comes tearing along
ripping the sacred solitude to rags
the locomotive is in sight from the deck

of the steamboat his clothes differed in no respect
from a “wharf-rat’s” except they were raggeder
they retreated to other city haunts in shame
since it was launched in Minneapolis on May 29, 1935

Lester and Vera approached the train unnoticed
they boarded the broken steps of the sleeper car
the errant lights of the yard bosses sprayed the
side (their rusted hulk star-manger Hiawatha)


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