ODE TO SAND (Indiana Dunes)

ODE TO SAND (Indiana Dunes)
by Steve Brammell

Henry Chandler Cowles, at the University of Chicago, developed a more formal concept of succession. Cowles studied vegetation development on the ever moving sand dunes on the southern shores of Lake Michigan (the Indiana Dunes). He first published this work as a paper in the Botanical Gazette in 1899 (“The ecological relations of the vegetation of the sand dunes of Lake Michigan”). – Wikipedia

Imagine the journey sand makes,
ten thousand years,
jewels the ice sheet lost
melting into a new sea,
water sweet as rain,
nature’s most patient mill
grinding its meal of quartz.

Waves deliver it here,
grain upon grain.
Free, it cannot rest.
It erases our footprints,
steals the dropped key,
mars the lovers’ damp skin,
hides inside the shoes
worn home.

Marram grass was the first
to find a way to grow in sand,
it’s bending in the breeze
a koan as we walk through.
The cottonwoods next
know the sand will give them nothing.
They spread their roots,
thrust toward the sun,
will not be buried.
In the heat of June
the sand is rife
with snowy seeds.
The jack pines, backing up,
ragged fighters
ever green with spite,
always hungry–
their armored cones dream of fire,
waiting to explode.

They work in tandem,
wind and sand,
remembering former spells, epochs,
barren times loved best,
cataclysmic skies, rains of cinders,
the sun choked by vapor and ash,
droughts and conflagrations,
ice pushing in from the poles,
life driven back to its margins,
hiding as the inanimate world
resumes its rightful rule.

We climb the front of the dune
using a path that curves around
the blowout shaped like a theater
where music is played,
a few ancient trees, whittled down,
brittle and gray,
stand exposed once more
at the back where the wind
off the water
lifts the sand uphill.

On top the high dune is rippled, ribbed,
sand blowing around our ankles,
its tickle, its tease
never betraying its true intention.
Behind us Lake Michigan
fills half the world,
before us, the land lays flat,
the confident green of summer,
fecund, abounding, singing,
never questioning its place.

The dune demands we learn to fly
steep and sliding on the leeward side,
bounding like those men on the moon.
The old house at the bottom
is nearly entombed,
front porch strangled by wild grape.
We can still see where the parlor was,
the sand pouring in
when the roof collapsed,
floorboards covered,
the message
a lizard scrawled there,
and a coyote’s meal,
bones waiting to be cast.

Steve Brammell – Hoosier prodigal son returned home. I lived for many years in the Deep South and wrote for Alabama Magazine, Birmingham Magazine and others. I’ve recently had poems published in Tiny Seed Literary Journal, RavensPerch, White Wall Review, Northwest Indiana Literary Journal, and a forthcoming poem in Flying Island Literary Journal. I live in Indianapolis and work in the wine trade.