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The Beauty and Wrath of Nature

Julia Barton

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Under the weather
(Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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All this week in the Midwest, bags are being filled with sand, handed down a line of people and placed to dam the rising floodwaters of the Mississippi River. Meanwhile, the waters are receding in Iowa and residents are starting to figure out how bad the damage is.

At the University of Iowa, officials aren't using the phrase "billions of dollars" to quantify the losses -- but it could come to that. Yet they're determined to start their summer session there on Monday.

James Galvin teaches poetry at the Iowa Writers Workshop there in Iowa City. And it turns out, he's also a part-time rancher in Wyoming. He's given weather -- its simultaneous power of beauty and destruction -- a lot of thought:


"Testimony"
by James Galvin

You can't step into the same
River even once,
And why would you want to? You can't
Lie down without turning your back
On someone. The sun slips
Like butter in a pan.

The eastern sky arrives
On the back stoop in its dark
Suit. It draws itself up
Full height to present its double
Rainbow like an armful of flowers.
Thank you, they're lovely.

I step outside where the wind
Lifts my hair and it's just
Beginning to rain in the sun,
And the earth silvers like a river
We're in, I swear to God,
And you can't step out of a river

Either. Not once.

"For Our Better Graces"
by James Galvin

God Loves
the rain, not us.
Ours is
what spills over,
what we look for
that finds us:
innocence
by association.
Cloud shadows
feel their way,
rapid and blind,
over the face
of the prairie.
Pine trees
atop the ridge
row the world
into the damp black sky.
God's mistress
rides by
on a feather of water.
After she is gone
her fragrance
is everywhere.

  • Music Bridge:
    After The Flood
    Artist: Talk Talk
    CD: Laughing Stock (Verve)

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