Sixteen miles east of Ark City
will put you pretty solidly into the southern Flint Hills:
Miles of rolling swirls of prairie grass
and winding cuts toward the creeks,
the occasional black-spined oil pump
thumping its single-cylinder rhythm across the fields.
Sixteen miles west will give you no hint of hills.
Here in the corridor of I-35 where Oklahoma and Kansas
rub up against each other,
long lines of turbines tethered against the wind,
send their surge through paralleled wires
drooped between tall towers,
held above thin empires of oil pumped slow
from ancient wells below these flat plains.
I turn north toward Wichita
in the waning light of a dim day.
Streaks of gray stretch the northern sky.
I can barely trace the shapes of jet trails,
a monochrome blending against the filtered fingers
of smooth clouds in the lingering shroud of a slow front
passing toward the south.
Past the huge granaries that rise up north of downtown,
I turn toward the east on 96.
A thin break a horizon away
flares a faint fire against the coming night.
It lights up the lower sky
and silhouettes a bank of trees lining the curve of the ramp.
Black limbs etch lace onto the last traces of this long day,
a moment of stark beauty that brightens the muted truths
sometimes dulled by too much thinking
and not enough seeing.