Copyright © 1995
by Neil Harrison
Logan House Press
Smack dab in the middle of America. Wayne, America, that is. Somewhat home
for now cause of college and personal business I keep to myself. Anyhow,
I've seen it this past semester 4,980 miles in the last four
months. From the City That Never Sleeps to the Big O, jumped to the tail
end of our neighboring Hawkeye state, and returned home to where the corn
grows. Been there, seen this and that. Cowboys and Poets, farmers and city
folk, gamblers and fishermen, and a whole lot more.
This ain't about me, though, it's about Mr Harrison. That's what I
first called him in an Intro to Poetry class some time ago. He and I being
the only two males to share the room with the 15 women. It was one of
those first years that I saw might broaden my horizon here at Wayne State
College, where those bright futures begin.
Neil, that's what I call him now, showed me a way of life long since
forgotten in most eyes. Reminded me of the past taught me of the present
and gave me a true reason to push on in this hell forsaken country.
I know Neil. At least enough to write home to the city, with yet
another new tale. Here's one man, livin' off what he's got. Training,
teaching, and doing what he does best.
I could go on and on about the stories we've shared. The one about
Neil's stubborn horse. He calls her Ghost. I call her otherwise. Maybe the
time he Slim, Zeke, Jim and I swapped the spit over coffee and cards. Or
maybe even the time I took my friend Staci along to meet up with Neil,
she'd just heard of him before. Well, Neil's been there. Seen this and
that, taught her or him, and has been takin' it all in.
I told JV just yesterday that I had something for him. I think I've
got it, and it ain't no May basket. Na, it's this. A Story. Whether it'd
be about last night alone, fighting off hopefully the last of the damn
April showers, or the latest in US News, where they've the newest
and coolest video clips that look like the "old times" or newest headline
reading "It Wasn't Supposed To Happen Here in the Very Heart of America."
Well, folks, that heart lies here. Just west of Wayne, and a few steps
from Winside. Here lies life. Population whatever, off to left or right.
The simple, the honest, and the few that are still trying to keep it all
together. Don't believe me, go ask Sam. He's the dog here up north, and
we've been talking tonight knee deep in mud. Or ask Trey, there on the
right. Some nights he still swims out at Blue Hole.
Mr Harrison, he knows. Jim Reese
Neil Harrison has created some of the finest poems to come out of Nebraska.
His voice is insistent, his images precise and the sensibility behind the
poems is generous and smart. No one since Don Welch has done the short
poem so perfectly. No other poet knows the various parts of the
their topographies, their flora and fauna so intimately. These are
poems to mark the passage of time, to note change and to ask what remains
constant. JV Brummels