Abandoned Prairie Church (Ted Kooser)

February 3, 2010

For more than a hundred years
it has clenched the candle of its spire
in a hard white fist,
waiting for thunder to light the short wick
of its cross. But the clouds pass by,
leaving no more than a flash
on the cracked and dusty panes.
The fist’s weight is firm on the lid
of this rough old box of Nebraska
in which all the relics are kept,
the skulls, the sermons, the prayers,
and a scatter of buffalo nickels
from the last collection.

*

This poem first appeared in Smartish Pace in 2004, and I’m not sure which book of Kooser’s it landed in, but I found an edited version online with a couple recognizable alterations. The online version reads like this:

The fist’s weight is firm on the lid
of this rough old box of rock and sod
in which all the relics are kept,
the sermons, the prayers, the gossip.

By giving up “Nebraska” for “rock and sod”, it seems Kooser is willing to sacrifice specificity to gain a greater music. And perhaps replacing “skulls” with “gossip” makes the line more plausible. To be honest, I don’t know which version I prefer. It’s the buffalo nickels that carry the poem anyway. Only the bison remain faithful, offering their tithe to the Church of Rock and Sod.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: