Academy of American Poets
View Cart | Log In 
Subscribe | More Info 
Find a Poet or Poem
Advanced Search >
Want more poems?
Subscribe to our
Poem-A-Day emails.
FURTHER READING
Poems by Campbell McGrath
Hemingway Dines on Boiled Shrimp and Beer
Joseph Brodsky in Venice (1981)
Related Prose
A Poem by Any Other Name: Poems Titled "Poem"
Poetic Form: Prose Poem
Other Prose Poems
A Supermarket in California
by Allen Ginsberg
About Foam
by Caroline Bergvall
Be Drunk
by Charles Baudelaire
Einstein Defining Special Relativity
by A. Van Jordan
Exoskeletal Gesture
by Eric Baus
Gnosis
by Theodore Worozbyt
Just Listen
by Peter Johnson
Marble Hill
by Kazim Ali
RPT MC-60 00.27 8
by Tan Lin
Seurat
by Ira Sadoff
The List of Famous Hats
by James Tate
The Secret of Light
by James Wright
Sponsor a Poet Page | Add to Notebook | Email to Friend | Print

The Prose Poem

 
by Campbell McGrath

On the map it is precise and rectilinear as a chessboard, though driving past you would hardly notice it, this boundary line or ragged margin, a shallow swale that cups a simple trickle of water, less rill than rivulet, more gully than dell, a tangled ditch grown up throughout with a fearsome assortment of wildflowers and bracken. There is no fence, though here and there a weathered post asserts a former claim, strands of fallen wire taken by the dust. To the left a cornfield carries into the distance, dips and rises to the blue sky, a rolling plain of green and healthy plants aligned in close order, row upon row upon row. To the right, a field of wheat, a field of hay, young grasses breaking the soil, filling their allotted land with the rich, slow-waving spectacle of their grain. As for the farmers, they are, for the most part, indistinguishable: here the tractor is red, there yellow; here a pair of dirty hands, there a pair of dirty hands. They are cultivators of the soil. They grow crops by pattern, by acre, by foresight, by habit. What corn is to one, wheat is to the other, and though to some eyes the similarities outweigh the differences it would be as unthinkable for the second to commence planting corn as for the first to switch over to wheat. What happens in the gully between them is no concern of theirs, they say, so long as the plough stays out, the weeds stay in the ditch where they belong, though anyone would notice the wind-sewn cornstalks poking up their shaggy ears like young lovers run off into the bushes, and the kinship of these wild grasses with those the farmer cultivates is too obvious to mention, sage and dun-colored stalks hanging their noble heads, hoarding exotic burrs and seeds, and yet it is neither corn nor wheat that truly flourishes there, nor some jackalopian hybrid of the two. What grows in that place is possessed of a beauty all its own, ramshackle and unexpected, even in winter, when the wind hangs icicles from the skeletons of briars and small tracks cross the snow in search of forgotten grain; in the spring the little trickle of water swells to welcome frogs and minnows, a muskrat, a family of turtles, nesting doves in the verdant grass; in summer it is a thoroughfare for raccoons and opossums, field mice, swallows and black birds, migrating egrets, a passing fox; in autumn the geese avoid its abundance, seeking out windrows of toppled stalks, fatter grain more quickly discerned, more easily digested. Of those that travel the local road, few pay that fertile hollow any mind, even those with an eye for what blossoms, vetch and timothy, early forsythia, the fatted calf in the fallow field, the rabbit running for cover, the hawk's descent from the lightning-struck tree. You've passed this way yourself many times, and can tell me, if you would, do the formal fields end where the valley begins, or does everything that surrounds us emerge from its embrace?







From No Boundaries: Prose Poems by 24 American Poets, edited by Ray Gonzalez. Copyright © 2003 by Campbell McGrath. Reprinted by permission of Tupelo Press. All rights reserved.
Larger TypeLarger Type | Home | Help | Contact Us | Privacy Policy Copyright © 1997 - 2014 by Academy of American Poets.