Poetry

Joseph Langland 2

Norwegian Rivers
for the sesquicentennial of Norwegian
immigration to the United States, 1975

Yah, they are so kind of restless,
rushing around hills
and tumbling the polished stones;
they always have somewhere to go.
Even when they pause in the precipitous valleys
they climb
into deep long cold lakes
and then again begin
rapidly falling.

Yah, we have seen them
pouring off mountaintops
like the first dream of a second flood.
And now, one hundred blood years later,
they amaze Norwegian-American travelers,
sailing the birdlike ferries
toward the evergreen towns
or running through summer on the cliff-hung roads
with the sheer bravado of their origins.

Yah, now shall they see,
the affluent grandchildren,
how strong and supple minds
ran those rebellious rivers into the sea.
And now, yah, shall they hear

the low music of springs


watering those impoverished mountain meadows.
Then let them guess as they can,
yah,
how the terrible excitements of alienation
fell on the manhood of our great-grandfathers
and the playfulness of their children,
then rose in a heartbreaking cry from their limbs
and washed from their empty hands.

War
When my young brother was killed
By a mute and dusty shell in the thorny brush
Crowning the boulders of the Villa Verde Trail
On the island of Luzon,

I laid my whole dry body down,
Dropping my face like a stone in a green park
On the east banks of the Rhine;

On an airstrip skirting the Seine
His sergeant brother sat like a stick in his barracks
While cracks of fading sunlight
Caged the dusty air;

In the rocky rolling hills west of the Mississippi
His father and mother sat in a simple Norwegian parlor
With a photograph smiling between them on the table
And their hand fallen into their laps

Like sticks and dust;

And still other brothers and sisters,
Linking their arms together,
Walked down the dusty road where once he ran
And into the deep green valley
To sit on the stony banks of he stream he loved
And let the murmuring waters
Wash over their blood-hot feet with a springing crown
of tears.

Jospeh Langland 3