Sample poems from Monica Barron's PRAIRIE ARCHITECTURE

Why We Need Ponds


To break the monotony of crops

we need ponds to be, on our home places,

the eyes that never close

as their grass lashes go to seed.


To collect what clouds drop

we need ponds, to let rain run

into rills, to let

grasses grow on their banks so that

rills don’t become runnels,

so that snow melts and sinks in

as few things do.

We need ponds to let all waters

have a destination part of a cycle.



We need ponds to teach us patience.

When the water we prepared for doesn’t come

we will have time to build a reef

the water rises and algae grows to cover

to stock the basin with fish and imagine them

trance-like with their lidless eyes and slight

correcting motions in the reef.

one day the pond will have become

a sanctuary for mating dragonflies

and coyotes tired of wandering the sandy beds

of old, high-walled creeks.



After such an effort

what might we become?

After changing the map

moving the horizon

of a place whose every dip

and roll every living

being thought it knew?

Once we have changed the weather

because it’s not humid

enough in Greentop in August,

after changing the soundscape

so the whippoorwills and bluebirds

have migrating companions,

on the day the trees finally

see themselves in the pond’s

mirror may we be

the reflection that fractures when

something lands on the pond’s

placid surface breaking us

into a loving eye,

an awakened ear,

an open hand.



Meditation from West of the River  [first two of seven linked sonnets]


The house lights up, the doors and windows open,

we saw each other over the wreckage of dinner—

trout spines, candles burned to sockets,

red tulips doing backbends in a vase.

It was simple to motion you into the other room,

to sit in an armchair, begin a conversation

while the dogs howled up and down the alley

warning us away from our intentions.

I understood what it meant when you rose from your chair,

crossed the room, ran your hands through my hair.

I followed you back to the darkened kitchen,

put a hand on your shoulder to make you turn around.

As I closed my eyes to kiss you I was aware

of the gray the light was catching in your hair.



The light that caught the gray in your hair

was being caught by the crest of every wave,

tossed in a heap on the glistening shoals at our feet.

When I was a girl I walked this beach for miles,

waded into the waist-high waves to cool

my sun-burned skin. In pictures of that time

life looks uncluttered, the backdrop always a narrow

finger of land. Say what you want about memory,

it can be so clean. I remember us on the edge

of a pier while the sun slipped into the lake and the water

beat against the pilings. I was thinking a heart

could hold heat like sand after a sunset.

I was on the verge of trying to tell you this

when the sky began to darken, the sand turn cold.



Midsummer Songs



All day I live beneath

a canopy of oak and pine.

Bird-song, rain, and light filter through.

At sunset I walk down

to the meadow to holler my truths

to the blue, blue distant hills.

The wind blows them back.



Days full of light

shortening ever so slightly.

A yellow flower changes

to a dark green phallus.

Night comes earlier

beneath these trees.

I row my dinghy out

onto open water to buy

myself some time.



I would have guessed tonight

would be clear: clouds the color

of rhubarb, clean wind crossing

the meadow. But winds have a way

of changing. The leaves turn

their silver undersides to me,

my grandmother’s favorite sign

of rain. I know: we lose some,

we lose some.