A few miles west of Medicine Lodge,
an odd rising of red dirt looms up,
a showing of ancient waters carving the soft earth of gypsum.
A few miles south of One-Sixty and a quick look
might have some travelers
thinking they saw something like Arizona or Utah:
small buttes and little mesas trapping early shadows
and a lonesome black cow bellowing from the ledge
just below an old pickup truck strangely abandoned
high above the red grit road.
We park for a little while
and walk to the line of a barbed wire fence
staked to the edge of the universe.
Just beyond, heavy sod gives way to the bluff
that falls away for a couple hundred feet,
a sudden and unexpected transition
into miles and miles of open range,
a valley that runs to the horizon.
A strange year of heavy rains
running all the way from spring into fall
has stained the hills and slopes—
all other than rock and bare ground—
with an unseasonable green.
Except for these heavy cedars,
barkless and gray,
windward side charred with grim testimony
of drier times and darker days,
when wildfires swept their way,
driven by fifty-mile-an-hour winds,
fueled by three years of drought
and poured from the very spout of hell.
Given enough time, enough rain, enough seasons,
and even these monuments of pain
will ease into the long slope of vanishing memory.
Scars become nothing more than barely remembered blots of time.
Other shapings will move across the face of sod and stone,
each covering become part of history and home,
until we have gained some place
beyond the forming of fire and rain,
the whisperings of the wind.