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A poet of the Great Plains

Slug: ST-Read-Poet Date: 10.6.2004 Kevin Clark\ The Washington Post Neg #: 160375 Washington, DC Ted Photo by Kevin Clark/The The Washington Post via Getty Images

So this is Nebraska - Ted Kooser

The gravel road rides with a slow gallop

over the fields, the telephone lines

streaming behind, its billow of dust

full of the sparks of redwing blackbirds.

On either side, those dear old ladies,

the loosening barns, their little windows

dulled by cataracts of hay and cobwebs

hide broken tractors under their skirts.

So this is Nebraska. A Sunday

afternoon; July. Driving along

with your hand out squeezing the air,

a meadowlark waiting on every post.

Behind a shelterbelt of cedars,

top-deep in hollyhocks, pollen and bees,

a pickup kicks its fenders off

and settles back to read the clouds.

You feel like that; you feel like letting

your tires go flat, like letting the mice

build a nest in your muffler, like being

no more than a truck in the weeds,

clucking with chickens or sticky with honey

or holding a skinny old man in your lap

while he watches the road, waiting

for someone to wave to. You feel like

waving. You feel like stopping the car

and dancing around on the road. You wave

instead and leave your hand out gliding

larklike over the wheat, over the houses.

Poet Laureate Ted Kooser Photo By Chris Maddaloni/Roll Call/Getty Images