Prairie Junction

The land is an anvil
and everything here is hammered flat.
At the corner is a filling station.
You can pull off the road
if you want to.

Two roads cross each other here at hard
right angles. One runs exactly east and west,
the other north and south. Each day the sun
follows the one, from one horizon to the other.
Twice a year it stands directly over it,
beating down.

The filling station is low and squat
with a flat roof. It was built ten years ago
of concrete blocks and then whitewashed.
Before that there was nothing here.

If you stand in the middle of the intersection
and face north by east, you will see a lake
about ten miles off. It is an oblong smear of blue
set in a slight depression in the plain.
Summers it is shrouded in haze and waves of rising heat.
Migrating birds pause there on the way north
or south, but no one lives there. No fishing is allowed.

If you pull off at the station for gas,
a young man with a shock of yellow hair will
eventually come out to help you. His name is Everett Jones,
although you wouldn't know that. Everett works from eight
in the morning until ten at night, and lives with his wife
and three children in a town about thirty miles from here.
He plays his radio all day long.

No trucks go through anymore. But geese still fly overhead
and east-west traffic yields to that going
north and south for no particular reason.

Halvard Johnson

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