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POETRY Lines Written In A Boat On The Prairie This prairie grass is taller than a man, taller than a man with a 16-year-old daughter, taller than a man with a 16-year-old daughter who lives 1600 miles away… I am the last bite left in this little bowl of sky, drifting on the breath of Indian summer. Up close, the waving grasses turn from their autumnal brown. to fading reds and greens and yellows, t-om grass to dried daisy and yarrow, and a Mexican Hat thrown down where are you? My boat lolls in a tiny pond in the middle of the wild and windblown prairie sea of Missouri, while off in Idaho, you are blossoming into a life beyond me. Two bent reeds curve up over the far bank like question marks, scythes to cut down any answer. The flowers you planted bloomed until you left, Emily. Then the purple asters petrified, the coneflowers sagged in resignation, rending their garments\(well, the asters actually kept right on going, a sprawling profusion. The Shapes of Clouds I watched the clouds today. And dragonflies who feed upon the sky To get so blue Refused to give advice on what to do, Or why, Or how to say Anything. Anything at all. The clouds passed over: Buddha lost an ear, A smoking rocket Turned into a house, and through the socket Of a great skulla horse’s or a deer’s The sky seemed small, As any life must look from far away. I watched the clouds today. James Howard All I’m saying is, I wish you were here to sit in this boat with me and love this sea of grass more than I do alone. I would tell you the other one about how the dots over the two I’s in “prairie” are like two distant birds flying over the word prairie. All smiles, each with an oar, we could slop our way back to the dock, the sun’s arm over our shoulders. And we could go out walking, the prairie nodding its thousands of heads over us, agreeing with everything we say. j ames Howard is a Kansas City poet, essayist, and screenwriter. His poetry has been published in many small magazines, and he is currently working on a series of essays for NPR. His screen adaptation of Larry Brown’s “Big Bad Love” was featured in The Directors Fortnight at Cannes and at the Austin Film Festival, 2001. He is married to the writer Penny K Ill gman. Naomi Shihab Nye 11,E TEXAS OBSERVER 12/7/01