The Llano Estacado

By John Poch John Poch
How much soil do you plow to soothe a conscience?
If you’re a staked plains, dry-land, long view man:
a sky’s worth. Some even sow the dry playa
mid-summer with sorghum, the cotton plowed under
after early hail. Thus, not every farmer keeps
an old broken homestead sacred as a graveyard.
Today, no Sharpshin on a pivot for an omen,
no stoic farmer on a turn-row changing water.

Among a little wind grit, in a grid on a grid, somewhere
like the crossroads of outer space and Earth, Texas,
a handful of ragged elms withstand a long sway
of heat and wind. These old guards of a home haunt
the field but wither even as ghosts must. Honor them
with a walk among homesick bricks, and prophesy good.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

July/August 2009


John Poch was born in Erie, Pennsylvania. He earned an MFA from the University of Florida and a PhD from the University of North Texas. The inaugural Colgate University Creative Writing Fellow, Poch also received the “Discovery”/The Nation Prize. His collections of poetry include Poems (2004), Two Men Fighting with a Knife (2008), and Dolls (2009). He teaches at Texas Tech University.

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Sorrow & Grieving, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.