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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, February 23, 2016.
About this Poem 

“I lived in Nebraska from 2005 to 2007. Often, when I told people where I lived, they’d mention having driven through the state on their way to one coast or the other, often without stopping, at times unhelpfully adding that ‘it took forever to get out of.’ It got me thinking about the people who chose to stay, who were perhaps first headed somewhere else, but decided to make this vast prairie their home.”
—Michael Dumanis

Nebraska

I could play the accordion
so I was selected for the amateur propaganda team.
It was very cold. I had to stop up the hole in my shoe.
I used the lid of a tin can.

As far as I can tell, there's nothing
trustworthy about my experience of reality.
I stand on one leg. I stand on the other leg.
I rotate my arms clockwise

and call this exercise. In the home movie
I recognize my coat. Taking my turn
with the mechanical bull at Uncle Ron’s
Wild West Saloon I hold on for as long as a minute.

So little happens on a given day,
which is why I play the accordion
until I am riddled with someone’s applause,
which is why I drive to Arthur County to see

the hay bale church and the world’s smallest courthouse.
If I was a blue jay or some kind of robin
I would fly figure-eights over the cottonwoods.
Despite the wind, I would not curse the wind.

The future is a rumor like the past.
The new anxiety supplants the old anxiety.
The continent I stand my ground on drifts,
which is why I have asked you to marry me.

I am solid gold, I say, and I am capable
of loving you until the final asteroid
hides Omaha under an ocean of ash,
but you’re unavailable.

They were on their way to the ocean
when they made their minds up to stay here.
The grass was so tall they picked wildflowers
without stepping down from their horses.

We are all so lucky. It is terrifying.
It is a blue sky day for all the freezingness.
I blink into the chasm of sunlight endlessly.
I forget my life, but then I remember my life.

Copyright © 2016 Michael Dumanis. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2016 Michael Dumanis. Used with permission of the author.

Michael Dumanis

Michael Dumanis

Michael Dumanis is the author of My Soviet Union (University of Massachusetts Press, 2007). He teaches at Bennington College and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

by this poet

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World harbors much I'd like to fit inside
that the parameters preclude me from.

I'm the desire to have had a say.
I'm the desire to be left alone

amid brochures for Europe's best hotels
behind a locked door on Utopia Parkway,

where Brother, crippled, rides his chariot,
where Mother's all dressed up and going
poem

I carry myself out into the rainswept blur.
I lift my pleasant voice over the coming flood.
I have nothing to do that I’m going to do.
I keep meaning to purchase a dog. I keep waiting

to email you back. When I see you again will
I know who you are? Once I wove you a mask
of