for Kelly Madigan

Out West, my friend has dug out the brome
and is reseeding her land
as native prairie—the kinds of plants
that hold the earth in place.

Big bluestem, indian grass, and sideoats grama
with their sod-forming rhizomes and stolons,
with roots deeper than they grow tall,
were once torn clean out for the easy farming
that reaped the dust bowl.

To restore prairie, she must first overturn her instincts,
tarry over a backwards peek, planting the very
water-hungry crops that stole this pasture from bison—
a few seasons of corn and soy until invasives weaken.
Restoration also requires lifetimes of knowledge, borrowed,
as she catalogues and collects seeds in the Loess Hills.
Some are robust, others particular, fine, or fragile.

Paper bags full tuck into whatever cupboard or cellar
most resembles conditions each species prefers.
Their perfume permeates floor to rafter
as they overwinter with her—breath the almost-invisible
promise of yucca, pasque flower, skeleton weed, lead plant,
and acres of original grass
that are, for birds and rodents, both feast and nest.

The odor of autumn’s satisfied stems,
bent under the weight of abundance,
blushing gold and red, concentrates within waiting
walls as it never will again.

Once they take, they’ll last forever,
at least as a person knows how to count what matters—
by relationship to it, by generations.
Drought, flood, and fire cannot dissuade
the harmony of place
human folly had unmade.



Deborah J. Shore