For George McGovern

I was sad to see his belly break up into stars,
to hear the wind under his eyes,
so many rivers streaming out of his face.

I rode out into the foothills looking for him.
I passed sagebrush grievers silently scraping the soil;
I saw the dry soil of stars in the air.

There were too many stories
spread across the sky for me
to be able to tell one from the other,

though sometimes I can still chop away
at the sky or, being human, pan
for even a little gleam of story.

I didn’t want anyone to know the miles on me;
I’d rather they thought the stains were wounds,
not rust (rust itself being a kind of wound).

Riding brought back the old times, when waves
of hair once roared across our heads
(you could hear the ocean in our brains).

Now throw me off, old lion, let your mane
be strewn about the sun to light us
anywhere we may yet dare to wander.

                                                                   October 21, 2012


Michael Dennis Browne graduated from the University of Iowa and has taught at Iowa, Columbia, Bennington, and the University of Minnesota, where he is now a professor emeritus. His most recent publications include Give Her the River (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004), Things I Can’t Tell You (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2005), and What the Poem Wants (Carnegie Mellon, 2008). His awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bush Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, and the McKnight Foundation, and he has twice won the Minnesota Book Award for poetry. A new collection of poems, The Voices, will be published by Carnegie Mellon in the fall of 2013.