Lechliter grew up in southeast Kansas, not far from my own hometown. He writes about the places I knew and in that language, as in this unsentimental nature poem “Horsefly”
On wrongs swift vengeance waits. Alexander Pope
The fucker I smacked and left to die,
belly up on the ground, waits for
the labor of ants to carry it off.
It’s not unlike the one that blooded
me as I played in my grandmother’s
garden hose on a summer day.
That one made off with boy flesh.
And all I could do was weep and howl,
which brought my father out to the
lawn, where he chased it with the
newspaper’s help wanted ads,
but could not smack the villain.
So now I must call this menace
I’ve flattened an icon of vengeance
and leave it in the mulch, where
the widow and fatherless grubs
will come to honor the knowledge
that only fools linger. (p. 7)
The Alexander Pope epigraph helps to set up a tradition and also to contrast to it, as the opening “The fucker” makes it clear this is not a sanitized or nostalgic experience. Sarah Smarsh’s memoir Heartland is redefining the way outsiders see rural folk, and this poet gives testimony to a complex, vivid site where human dramas match the extremes of weather. This is a wise book, for readers from any place.