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Learning to Love Louisiana

by Elizabeth Burk

“Where are the mountains?”
I ask, after an hour's drive
through flat-filled landscapes
of sugar cane and rice fields, miles
without trees, unprotected from open sky.

Elemore calls it the prairie;
the name blows wide open
the shut down, frightened spaces
in my heart,

transforms this stripped bare
boggy land into primal frontier-
grand vistas of grassy earth
framed by cloudscapes,

dotted with tin shacks, trailers
huddled like hitchhikers
by the side of the road,

the lackadaisical towns, windows boarded,
looking in daytime as though they were
shut down for the night,

the gray mist's endless drizzle
filling the swamps, marshes, basins
to the brim,

Why not surrender, succumb, languish
at the edge of a rice field, watching
the wind sway the marshy grasses

out here on the prairie,
so close to god,
where there is no place to hide?

First Published in WISCONSIN REVIEW
Spring 2008, Volume 42, Page 10

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