Ode to Omaha

The city is river,
is hills, is slopes,
is creek beds, the promise
that if you can hop a river
who’s strong as anything on this muscle-bound Earth
that it’s gotta be worth it;
the city is the fruit
of the ferry, the bridge,
the rails and the ties,
this campsite turned settlement
turned quiltwork of neighborhoods,
downtown bolted down
to what rock beds deep
under floodplain silt; the city
is the river, is the hills; you,
in your patch’s fabric, forget that,
think you are the zoo,
the fort, the Reuben sandwich,
the airbase, the market, Boys Town, the campus,
Dodge, Center, Lake, 10th Street,
72nd, 208th, lines
and landscaping; you are
what was here first, you are that water dragon roaring
across this continent from sulfur springs to gulf,
that river of whatever name you have for it
in whatever language your mouth shapes;
what was here
before buffalo hunts, before trading posts,
before Jefferson, before Mormons,
before Standing Bear’s words about the color of his blood, before
meatpacking plants, short-lived State Capitol, before
a mob flung ropes over Harney Street lamp posts,
before Jobbers Canyon and Union Station,
before baseball games and TV dinners,
before Highway 6 and I-80,
before proclamations and markers for President Ford and Malcolm X,
before prairie turned cornfield
turned houses turned bowling alley turned superstore,
a few hundred neighborhoods gathered under one city’s name;
you Bible verses, stanzas, movements, you
don’t stand on your own, you
are all part of this artwork
because you, in yourself, in your forbears, came
across this impossible river,
found a spot
in hillside, creek bed, floodplain, you
brothers and sisters who rarely meet, you
division of acres and enclaves, your boundaries
don’t mean a thing
to the river,
to the hills,
to the slopes,
to the creek beds,
to the promise
to all there is
which welcomes you,
together, here.


From I Have a Poem the Size of the Moon by Matt Mason; Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2020.
Find copies at your favorite local, independent bookstore: www.bookwormomaha.com/book/9781622889020