In the middle of rolling grasslands, away from lights,
a moonless night untethers its wild polka-dots,
the formations we can name competing for attention
in a twinkling and crowded sky-bowl.
Out from the corners, our eyes detect a maverick meteor,
a transient streak, and lying back toward midnight
on the heft of our car hood, all conversation blunted,
we were at once unnerved and somehow restored.
Out here, a furrow of spring-fed river threads
through ranches in the tens of thousands of acres.
Like cattle, we are powerless, by instinct can see
why early people trembled and deliberated the heavens.
Off in the distance those cattle make themselves known,
a bird song moves singular across the horizon.
Not yet 2:00, and bits of comet dust, the Perseids,
startle and skim the atmosphere like skipping stones.
In the leaden dark, we are utterly alone. As I rub the ridges
on the back of your hand, our love for all things warm
and pulsing crescendos toward dawn: this timeless awe,
your breath floating with mine upward into the stars.
Twyla Hansen, “August 12 in the Nebraska Sand Hills Watching the Perseids Meteor Shower” from Dirt Songs: A Plains Duet. Copyright © 2011 by Twyla Hansen.