Poetry: A trip to the prairie

Clay Marcusen, “Stalwart Tree,” photograph

A fall trip to the prairie land in Linn County, Kansas, was nice and cool, cloudy with a light breeze and very peaceful.

The land is 60 acres and is a rolling type of terrain with excellent views in all directions. I have been working for 25 years on prairie conversion of this land with the assistance of the Conservation Department.

A good friend joined me, as she was very interested in viewing and learning more about prairie life and management of it.

Prairies are on the decline in North America and globally, whereas historically prairies covered most of North America.

The majority of prairie land remaining is in the Midwest, and the Flint Hills in Kansas have the majority of the country’s last remaining tallgrass prairie.

As we arrived and drove down a mowed path, I was very impressed with the controlled burn on the middle 20 acres that had just been performed; we also saw several deer scampering about and shouting out, “Where have you been?”

All the forbs and grasses were of course in their dormant stage, and we harvested some seed in our hands and let it fly in the cool breeze.

Spring, of course, is a joyous time for new growth, but fall and winter provide rest for the spurt of energy needed.

Native or prairie perennial grasses and forbs have deep roots and therefore can withstand more dry weather than annuals. We discussed this along with many other reasons to inform the public of the benefits of supporting and participating in the growth of native perennial plants in local yards, gardens, roadsides and commercial properties.

The pond’s water level remained very low, and even though recent rains had come through, it probably soaked into the ground before any runoff reached the pond.

There were no insects that day, but we did see a large hawk perched in a nearby tree giving a bit of a head turn toward us as a greeting.

We took a look at the back side of the land, with great views from the elevation, and then we headed toward the gate at the gravel road. As we departed, we said, “So, until next time, rest well one and all.”

all images courtesy of Clay Marcusen; poems by Clay Marcusen

The Stalwart Tree

It’s erect
It’s tall

A team player

Look for it
in your yard
Or your neighbors
Or in the park

Look for it
Standing on
The prairie
Near a pond

It is waiting
To speak with

In all seasons

It has
Open arms
Welcoming you

It is alive
With wonder

Go over to it
Have a sit
Look up

And see it’s

It’s splendor

It’s listening

If you listen
It will tell you
Many stories

But you have
To listen

You have to take time
To listen

And then
Share your stories
With it
And give thanks to

The Stalwart Tree

Make a date with it
To return

And as you depart
You two will
Signs of

And respect

Clay Marcusen “Compass Plant,” photograph

Compass Plant

Perennial and
Thrives on

The Prairie

Deep roots
Helps the soil
And Helps the plant
In times of drought

It has
Wide fan shaped leaves
In the Spring

The face of the leaves
Towards the sun
In the light of

Thus the name
For this plant,

Compass Plant

After a couple of
Years of maturity
The plants send up a tall
6 foot stem
And forms large
Buds which
Then flower

Much like a sunflower.

A remarkable plant

And, of course,
In the winter
It goes dormant

Dormancy is a time
Of rest

The plants loose their
The leaves dry up
And the heads of
The flowers have
Turned to seed
To blow away
And scatter

So that more
Will grow

The dry leaves
Will fall and become
Mulch for
The soil

The roots and
The base are still
Living and
In the Spring

New growth appears

And the leaves start

And turning to
The sun
And most likely

Giving thanks

Clay Marcusen “Hedge Tree Rows,” photograph

Hedge Tree Rows


Also known as
Osage Orange trees

Very important

Their history
Not sure but
I don’t think
They are native
To North America
But in fact
The South Central
United States

But however they
Got here
They were useful
As they grew

And grew some more

They were primarily
Confined to rows
To use as fencing

Also used as
And furniture

Very hard
And the inside
Has a yellowish

Hedge balls
Or hedge apples
Are large
Round light green

Their outer covering
Is not smooth
But variegated and

The inside contains
A milky sticky substance

Hedge balls are only
Produced by the
Female, I assume,
As not all trees
Have them

The tree growth is
Free form
In that they do
What they want
To do

They can grow very tall and wide

Their limbs go
Every which way
and have large
thorns protruding

making it
Difficult to

Hedge posts
Made from
The trees
last forever

If working to
Saw down a row
Of hedge
In a short period
Of time

I wish you
the best
of luck

Clay Marcusen

Born in El Dorado, Kansas, Clay Marcusen has a longtime fascination and spiritual interest in the beauty and history of the Kansas prairies, which he expresses in poetry and photography. Twenty-five years ago, he purchased 60 acres of rough, open rolling land in Linn County, Kansas, and with the help of the Kansas Conservation Department worked on converting the land into a life-sustaining prairie.

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