Returning to Iowa

Gary J. Whitehead Click to

Gary J. WhiteheadGary J. Whitehead’s third book of poems, A Glossary of Chickens (Princeton), was published in 2013. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The New Yorker, The New Criterion and Measure.


Above the just cut field
martins darted through the dusty air,
diminishing astonishingly
the swarms of gnats and moths
orbiting the great round bales,
which sat in their warm compactness
like cakes on racks.
Shadows grinned on the unsunned sides,
and I remember us happy
in a Midwestern way, stretched out
and drowsy, a stop on a trip
to Amana, your hand warm and wet in mine.
A kestrel hovered above the ditch.
A mile off, a pickup made a gray wake
along a gravel road.
A cow crested a hill
and paused to contemplate us.
Some things are not countable in their grace,
so we pine for them,
we remember them with kindness,
we return them to the mouth
to chew them a second time.


2 Responses to Returning to Iowa

  1. Brian Slusher says:

    This is a beautiful modern pastoral, and just as the final line said, I went back to chew it a second time. Excellent opening, too, quickly and musically setting the scene.

  2. I loved your poem. So much of what I have tried to write in the last three years is to recollect
    scenes from growing up in Ohio, and now the beauty I see in eastern South Dakota. You nailed it down, and wonderfully so. Yes, we are all ruminants when it comes to remembering the sounds, sights, and fragrances of home. Thank You so much.

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