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WHERE NATIVE GRASS GROWS LOUD IF WE LISTEN/ Walt McDonald Out here, cactus is the skyline, a hundred miles of flat. Turn in a circle and never know you're back, except for the neighbor's ranch, barns like specks of mica in the dust, his windmill a semaphore of warning, Go away. East Texas is a myth, black loam and heritage and trees. The one road into town has highway signs boys use as targets. The asphalt's cracked, dandelions thriving as if crews planted them. Rattlesnakes nap on the shoulders, no trucks along for months. Jackrabbits limp along like dogs, nibbling grass and careless weeds, no need to hurry from nothing that can hide. Slumped on an aging appaloosa, I roll a smoke that may take half a day to lick, to get it right. I dig in deep shirt pockets for a match, and bite it like a toothpick. I stick the unlit cigarette like a feather in my hat. I kicked the habit four years ago after the last grass fire some trucker started. The butt's for practice, in case Tm ever bored. My wife saves rattles for the grandkids, flint arrowheads she finds, digging strawberry gardens, prying out rocks for the fish pond, scooping iron and umber for sand paintings on the patio. Rocking at dusk that starts at dinnertime and lasts past Halloween, we talk softly about a coyote a mile away, one drop of water bulging at sundown from the pipe over the brimming-full horse trough, the stretch and shimmer of the drop before it falls. The Missouri Review · 42 THAT SILENCE WHEN A MOUNTAIN LION ATTACKS/ Walt McDonald Those puffy clouds in the Rocky Mountains could be gunfire, another time and place. Before this planet spins us back home to the plains, dozens will die by rockets or cannon fire, puffs like clouds the last skies they will see. I heard explosions often in Saigon and the rapid pop of rifles, but high over jungles I saw only distant puffs and fire, silence except my own breath and chatter in my headset. Even when Kelly exploded in mid-air, no others heard, only a blip that disappeared on radar screens back at Da Nang. The earth turns green again, no matter what. Outside our cabin, magpies clown and crazy hop for worms and lazy bugs, sluggish under a thawing, Colorado sun. Last week, two campers had their throats slit in their tent not ten miles east. We never heard a scream. The world will be the world, springtime or not. Our oldest daughter's forty and a day, and we are wiser only by repute. The cost of living past a war is personal. Feelings are cash stashed in cigar boxes and not invested, no access by the Internet. Only an elk calf knows how its neck feels pierced by a puma, how nothing matters when fangs bend it staggering back, unable to scream or breathe. Nobody needs to know, but if they could, they'd trade. Nobody's degree of pain has been felt anywhere, nobody's loss is ever this severe. The Missouri Review · 43 CATARACTS/ Walt McDonald Clouds over Long's Peak, the sky blue everywhere but there, and when I glance away and back, they're gone. Imagine: I make the highest mountain disappear by tipping my head, even by shifting my eyes. Watch that herd of mule deer on the slope, floppy ears like semaphore: gone, a blur like TV reception in the fifties. When I blink left or right, they're back, magic. In night flight, they taught that staring at a light too long would saturate the rods or cones, a blind spot we could find by sweeping left to right like radar. A few more years, the specialist will pluck them out like pearls, presto, bringing my vision back like a picture tube, the world once more in focus. If it works, that is, no procedure perfect. Here from the cabin deck, I watch the river cascade left to right, flowing to nothing but a roar, then a shimmer twisting away downhill. For years, we watched our son come rafting with his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 42-53
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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