Volume 28, Number 3


South of the dam that flooded his father’s homestead,
where the gravel road turns east toward the Falkirk Mine,
Kohlman bounced his pickup west on the prairie trail
to show me the marker someone erected on a bluff
overlooking the river that stretches from unseen mountains.
It commemorates the winter camp of Lewis and Clark,
but looks more like a tombstone from a settlers’ graveyard,
the letters worn soft by generations of wind.
At the mouth of the Knife on the opposite bank,
one earthen lodge has been reconstructed
by the sovereignty that dispatched the explorers.
Where the trading village stood, no sign of life.

A lot fewer people live here now that it’s civilized.
I counted a half dozen coal plant smokestacks,
their high-voltage wires humming with the energy of cyberspace
toward the offices of the grain dealers in Minneapolis.
Kohlman could use a new pickup, but wheat is under three dollars.

High prices are gone, and the best land under water.
There isn’t much left in Dakota to be discovered,
except how many fewer people can live here.
No one is likely to inscribe that on a monument.

—Mark Trechock