Lorraine Healy

Ode to the Palouse at Harvest Time

The Palouse, Eastern Washington State


In the beginning the sky
was blue and wheat was yellow,
the clumps of sage were their exhausted green,
and so the farmers said
let the barns be red, and the barns
were red.

Today the wheat is ready, a thread
beyond golden
except a summer storm rages in its mess
of purple clouds and stops the day.

The old Danes and Swedes
are in the Farmers’ Cemetery
where death suits their natural reserve.
Grey slabs for Petersens, Larsens,
for every blessed Hanson.
And here and there, a perfect garland
surrounds a lovely, tiny marble lamb—
splurge for a child of wheat-like hair,
stolen by diphtheria.

The afternoon leaches
the rust of rain out of everything,
until the dry stubble
bursts with cricket and grasshopper.
Again the world a spark away
from wildfire, one unconscionable
flick of lightning touching down,
one idiot match flung out
a car window and why
do we call them wild
these fires arsoned by thoughtlessness,
ours, God’s?

Come sunset, an almost solid haze
rattles everything from here to the horizon:
the chemical ghost of weedkiller,
dust from ten thousand fallow fields,
over the silos, over the Quonset huts,
over everyone’s sins.


Lorraine Healy is an Argentinean poet and photographer living on Whidbey Island, Washington. The winner of several national awards, including a Pushcart Prize nomination, she has been published extensively. The author of two published chapbooks, Lorraine is a graduate from the M.F.A in Poetry program at New England College, New Hampshire, as well as from the post-MFA Program at Antioch University Los Angeles. Her first full-length manuscript, The Habit of Buenos Aires (Tebot Bach Press, 2010) won the Patricia Bibby First Book Award. Lorraine’s newest chapbook, Abraham’s Voices, will be out in October from WorldEnoughWriters Press.”