District 37


The pump outside. Hard for little hands

to move the handle fast enough to bring the water up,

takes muscled eighth-grade boys to do the job.


The shed out back full of coal,

hauled in by Arthur once a month.

Inside the cast iron stove. Overshoes

on every side when it had snowed.


Desks filled with spelling lists

and Frito bags. The flag up front,

pledged to every day. The blackboard

in the back, A to Z

calligraphed across the top.


On the side, three shelves

each holding thirty books.

The Adventures of Curleytops,

The Life of Jesse James.

And one with cartoons

showing atria and ventricles,

the valves between.


He wonders where he'd be

without that book. Or where he’d be

if there'd been one by Yeats or Hemingway.


In Cornfields, Cottonwoods, Seagulls and Sermons: Growing Up in Nebraska; 2017