April 21, 2013 in Features

American Life in Poetry

Ted Kooser U.S. poet laureate, 2004-06
 

This column originates in Nebraska, and our office is about two hours’ drive from that stretch of the Platte River where thousands of sandhill cranes stop for a few weeks each year. Linda Hogan, one of our most respected Native writers and writer in residence for The Chickasaw Nation, perfectly captures their magic and mystery in this fine poem.

The Sandhills

The language of cranes

we once were told

is the wind. The wind

is their method,

their current, the translated story

of life they write across the sky.

Millions of years

they have blown here

on ancestral longing,

their wings of wide arrival,

necks long, legs stretched out

above strands of earth

where they arrive

with the shine of water,

stories, interminable

language of exchanges

descended from the sky

and then they stand,

earth made only of crane

from bank to bank of the river

as far as you can see

the ancient story made new.

Poem reprinted from “Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas” (University of Arizona Press, 2011) by permission from the author and publisher. American Life in Poetry is supported by The Poetry Foundation and the English department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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