On a trip to Macomb, Illinois for a geological convention (North-Central GSA) a group of us left the very small college town and drove some 25, or perhaps as much as 50 miles west to Keokuk, Iowa to have dinner at a small Mexican restaurant on the western side of Keokuk. My recollection was that the food was pretty much a midwesterner's idea of what Mexican food is all about. But on the way there we stopped on the western bank of the Mississippi--and that is what is recalled below.
The rolling hills of Keokuk--
I thought, hills in Iowa?--
as down the sweeping streets
that strayed over the bluff-tops
above the river, I saw brick and wood
houses, magnificent in age and whiteness
and pride of generational holders.
The Mississippi at a decades long
ebb stranded barges filled with sand
and gravel at the gates of the river,
and we five men looked down into
the muddy wash, posed as
though at urinals for some sassy
That is not the now Iowa,
the Mississippi that flows
past the brooding past--masked
by marble, brick, and mortar.
But that river, pinched in from
banks and flowing trickle
to trickle and puddle to puddle
lives large as long as those who stood
still see and think and share
their thoughts and ways.
THAT Iowa is alive in ways
that one I cannot see now is not
and though the shape and shade
and form and flow of memory
mocks what once was, and each
recall shifts subtly
what is brought back,
still it is there in the richness
of memory, the raw wilderness
of thought to return and
reshape as bidden.
So the muddy puddles are forever
part of the river that roars with
might swell and undulates
and undergoes its remaking