This is a prayer for a field. . . — by Kathleen Cain


on the high plains, descended from mountains and foothills.
This is a hymn for foothills, twenty miles upstream; an incantation for mountains both
shining and dark; navy blue; unearthly green.
This is Hosanna! for erosion and differential resistance
and disintegration stone by pebble by grain
in the wind. And the rain. In snow. And ice.
This is praisesong for freezing and cracking, an orison for Old Red Sandstone losing its grip.
This is a Kyrie for letting go: eleison of return, oxygen from leaves, plainsong of snowfall from blizzard clouds; speaking in tongues for run-off at snowmelt.
This is a mandala for creeks threading east and west,
a burnt offering for gravity—pilgrimage along the path of least resistance.
This is riparian adoration—for cottonwoods making their way one at a time, procession of ash and elm following; sycamore; currant bushes; forbs and grasses, bluestem and grama.
This is a charm for natural flooding along green rivers, brown streams, sunburned creeks.
This is a novena for trees accused of taking too much water after the dam has been built, the stream diverted, the irrigation allotment overspent in ever-widening circles of evaporation.
This is a rosary for roots holding earthen banks in their grip, a lorica for their leaved branches keeping the water cool—the catfish, the bullhead, the bass—for holding algae at bay.
This is an Alleleuia! for shade and shelter, for life breathed back into the world. Amen! Blessed Be! along the river, the creek, the stream, the field. . .


Kathleen Cain is a native Nebraskan who has lived in Colorado since 1972. Her nonfiction book The Cottonwood Tree: An American Champion (2007) was selected for the Nebraska 150 Books Project. Two of her poems appeared in Nebraska Poetry: A Sesquicentennial Anthology, 1867-2017.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is from Wichita, Kansas. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) together with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016. His latest book, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) contains ekphrastic poems, inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels, that “resound and sometimes subvert expectations” (Tyler Robert Sheldon), that provide “a kaleidoscope of history, art, culture, the sacred and the everyday” (Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg).


16 thoughts on “This is a prayer for a field. . . — by Kathleen Cain

  1. A beautiful depiction of the land that Kathleen Cain obviously loves. Thank you for taking me to the same place!

    • Hello, Valerie – I had no idea these comments were here until just now – 1/10/21. Thank you so much for taking time to post. And so glad you could join me in this beautiful place we call our home. ❤

  2. A confessional—but for all the things powerful and holy about the land, the water, and the interaction of the elements.

    I’ve been a fan of Kathleen Cain’s work since 1976, and am very happy to see a wonderful example of it, included here!

    • Hi, Dave – I am just now seeing these messages, on 1/10/21. Thank you so much for your comments, and for being both friend and fan. So glad you enjoyed the poem.

  3. Kathleen Cain’s recent poem was beautiful and heartwarming. I will reread it again and again.

    • Hello, John – I am just now discovering these comments on the poem. And yes! we do know and love these praise songs so well! Thanks for taking time to read and comment.

    • Hello, Sandra – I am just now finding and reading these comments. I’d never thought of this as a “word painting” – must be some influence from your art instruction. 🙂 Thanks for taking time to read and comment.

    • Thank you so much for stopping by and taking time to read and comment. I am just now seeing these comments, as we wait for another spring – 1/10/21. Just a little while ago, I looked out the window and said “the snow has ended – go in peace.” Peace be with you as well.

    • “goose-bumpy” – I like that. I am just now seeing these comments – 1/10/21. Thank you so much for taking time to read and comment. It means a lot.

  4. Kathleen’s strength as a poet continue to amaze……..streams of conscious layers.

    • Hello, r l berney – I am just now seeing these comments, on 1/10/21. I am quite touched by your words, and appreciate you taking time to read and comment. Thanks!

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