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