Nebraska 20 – ‘Advice From a Provincial’ by Don Welch

When you drive down our river-road,
spare us your talk about our backwardness,
of how mile after unrelieved mile dispirits you,
of how there is nothing, simply nothing to see.

Go back to your homes and work on your eyes,
bring back a sight which can co-create meaning.

Then notice at sunset how our river is on fire,
a long burning vowel running westward,
back to the mountains, those granite consonants
which thrust themselves at the sky.

Slow down. Colorado can wait.
Skiing, of course, will make the cold warmer,
but think of this river, frozen in winter,
as a long silent scream.

To the settlers who waited it out,
who felt their sodhouses thaw,
who survived this place and were scarred,
pay a momentary tribute.

And, in spring, if you’re the right kind,
catch the wind with its invisible fingers
making love to the water.

You’ll never read it in a brochure,
but the only worthwhile rivers
are those which simplify lives.

I posted a sweet, empathetic poem by Welch the other day, but this one is about Nebraska, the State where he lived and worked – at the University of Nebraska – for most of his life. It is about the River Platte and the nature there that meant so much to him.

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