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Tales of the heartland: Poems from Don Nelson, Thomas Alan Orr, and John Sherman

Crossing Into Iowa
by Don Nelson

On steel
rails westbound
horn blaring
grain bin,
winter wheat
flea market,
back lot
spray painted
junk yard,
small town
cash crop
cell tower,
power line
signal arm
gas truck
crossing gate
lone tree
corn stubble,
steel bridge
river barge
mark twain
sand bar

Bio: Don Nelson is from South Bend In. He is a graphic designer specializing in magazine design. He studied visual communication at Herron School of Art and Design and was a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame (communications arts).

Act of God
by Thomas Alan Orr

When the Mississippi crested at Cairo, Illinois,
they called in the army to blow the levee, sparing the town
and flooding a hundred thousand acres of farmland, doing,
the old Mennonite said, what the military does best,
wreaking havoc in service to the greater good,
a man’s livelihood in exchange for a beleaguered city.

He steered the boat over muddy water covering
his ruined crops, dead deer and rabbits floating in the waste.
A barn roof bobbed among the tractor tires
as he neared the homestead built by his grandfather,
now sitting in seven feet of water,
windows blank as a drowned woman’s eyes.

People could call it an Act of God if it consoled them,
but building cities on a flood plain or farming the bottom land
were choices made by men. This, in faith, he understood.
He searched the mercury-colored sky for some hint
of sunlight to warm that wide prairie sea. A framed picture
of four generations washed against the bow.

Bio: Thomas Alan Orr's poems have appeared in Good Poems, edited by Garrison Keillor, and other anthologies and journals. His poetry has also been read into the record of the Maine State Legislature. His first book of poems was Hammers in the Fog. He is finishing a second book under the working title, Tongue to the Anvil.

Freed From Kansas
by John Sherman

from kansas they came
free souls from soil once said free

the others remained:
clustered in churches
and saturday night corners
to gossip with neighbors
gossiped about once gone

but these two
believing those
sermons unpracticed


Bio: John Sherman has published three books of poetry. His poems have appeared in many literary journals and anthologies. One of his poems was selected to appear on an Indianapolis Cultural Trail bus stop. Another was selected for the poet-quilter collaboration, Poetry in Free Motion. He is the recipient of a Creative Renewal Artist Fellowship and Individual Arts Program grants for his writing.