Saturday, July 10, 2004


by Harriet Brown

Now that I've lived twelve
winters here, and another
coming, I've grown fluent

in the language of coldness,
I've learned to keep cool,
skate on ice so thin

it's invisible, so thin
the slightest flare of heat
and you fall through forever.

Here words are like rock salt,
scattered one pellet at a time
to thaw the surface.

There are other languages
for fire – the one I learned
growing up, the language

of history and oppression,
the deep exotic gutturals
of loving and of loss,

where words simmer
and steam and boil over
like soup left on the stove.

Still, even on the endless
prairie, every now and then
there is a warm spot, a brief

bright rush of grief or lust
out of the frigid land,
an arterial gush of longing

that never freezes, no matter
how long winter lasts.
And this needs no translation.


by Harriet Brown

You to your mountains,
your ruins and old stories.
All the loves of your life.
The bony underpinnings.

I to what's mine – unspeakable
blue evening, nearly full moon.
Such contrast between darkness
and light, such faraway shining.

The same moon shines
over you, just a different
face, her long hair
spread over your pillow.

Maybe you dream of me –
the sharp taste of my tears,
scent of my hair. The shadow
of your hands across my skin.

Where I am the land is smooth
with age and weather. No one
would guess these mere hills
were ever sharp with longing,

were mountains once.

"Speaking Midwestern" originally appeared in Wisconsin Academy Review. Harriet Brown is the author of The Promised Land (Parallel Press, 2004) and several nonfiction books. Her poems appear in Poetry, Southern Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, and other magazines. She lives in Madison, where she's the editor of Wisconsin Trails magazine.


I'm interested in considering your "poems of place" for publication in The Middlewesterner's "Saturday's Poem" feature; send two or three of your best in the body of an e-mail addressed to . Put "Saturday's Poem" in the subject line. Then be patient. I will get back to you about whether I'll use your work or not. Send along a short biographical note and information about where your books can be purchased and I'll include that when your poem runs. There's no payment involved for having your work appear in "Saturday's Poem," but the feature is seen by some high class readers. About seventeen of them, by our current count.

o Dave Bonta, "The Morning Porch" - March 13, 2004
o Robin Chapman, "By the Wisconsin River" - June 12, 2004
o David Clewell, "Depot: Beaver Dam, Wisconsin" - February 21, 2004
o Susan Firer, "The Butterfly Graveyard" - May 22, 2004
o Fred First, "In Living Memory" - April 3, 2004
o R. Chris Halla, "My Prairie Wedding" - June 5, 2004
o Phil Hey, "Spare Tire" - March 6, 2004
o Mike O'Connell, "Flatlanders" and "A Farm and a Rainbow" - March 27, 2004
o Colleen Redman, "Tincture Making" - May 15, 2004
o Jim Reese, "Ritual" and "Willing and Ready" - May 29, 2004
o Robert Schuler, "Thaw, 2003, Stanton Township" and "The American Millenium" - June 26, 2004
o Marilyn Taylor, "Surveying the Damage" - June 19, 2004
o Mark Vinz, "The Old Hometown" and "Midcontinent" - April 17, 2004

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