Poet's Choice: 'Early April' by Devin Johnston

By Devin Johnston
Sunday, May 10, 2009

In Harrison County, Mo., a remnant of grassland supports a population of greater prairie chickens (Tympanuchus cupido), a bird on the verge of extinction. In spring, during mating season, the males stomp their feet in dance, emitting low-pitched calls. I had the good fortune to witness this strange spectacle on Easter weekend of 2007. As I sat in a canvas blind in the pre-dawn cold, this poem began to take shape.

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Early April

Under the Sinclair's brontosaurus sign,

three men collect around a coffee pot

on metal folding chairs. One talks

of rust on a spring-tooth harrow, matters

of cultivation, while the others

ruminate on plastic mugs. Down Route M,

the lek returns to a low ridge

of soy and hissing fescue, booming grounds

abandoned to the long nose of a tractor

where only roans had cast a shadow.

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