John Motoviloff
  • John Motoviloff
  • Letter to Editor
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Dreams of the Prairie

  • The last night in Dakota, bird hunting on the butcher’s land,
  • you see rows of burning hedge, pages of prairie illuminated.
  • You will remember this: smell of James River sedge
  • borne on west winds. Fire, ash.
  • Mornings you flush grouse from thickets of buffalo berry.
  • Afternoons you jump teal and gadwall from hidden ponds.
  • Evenings you hunt wheatfields where geese pass overhead,
  • big and gray, and fall commandingly to your doublegun.
  • Watch the campstove flicker.
  • Hear the hizzle of meat on hot iron.
  • Pop the cork, tear the bread, sleep snug within oilskin.
  • Next day move again to birds and sun and wind.
  • You call the butcher September 10, 2001.
  • There’s plenty of birds and water. You’ll be the first.
  • That night you dream of the James River valley deep and wide.
  • Fire, ash, lines of burning hedge.
  • You wake to play blocks with your infant daughter.
  • Yet, on TV, there’s no Clifford the Big Red Dog. No Teletubbies.
  • Shit’s coming down for real — buildings, planes, ash — and your
  • dreams of the prairie might now be that, nothing more.

Garden Plot

  • I can’t help sneaking out nights
  • air thick with tavern laughter
  • Midwest haze
  • going down to the plot by the railroad tracks.
  • I turn on the water.
  • Let it run from the earth’s belly.
  • Kneel to the faucet,
  • drink on dampening hay.
  • Fill buckets, 5 of them,
  • sticking arms, face,
  • deep within until my pulse
  • cools, slows.
  • Dripping nightshades
  • shiver down to the roots.
  • From the tavern,
  • more laughter, smell of spent malt.
  • European ministers rendezvous with mistresses.
  • Frequent halls of gilt and marble.
  • I’ll pass on foreign entanglements
  • and sneak off to the garden plot.

John Motoviloff works as an editor at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. He is a fanatical fisherman and hunter and occasional writer. His most recent book is the cookbook Wild Rice Goose and Other Dishes of the Upper Midwest, published by the University of Wisconsin Press (and available on Amazon).

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