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Hill Country

Ernie Lee 1946 (United States)



The land lifts and falls but gradually slants downward and Southeast, toward the gulf.
The hill country knolls, prairie-grass blessed, are sun-kissed with wild-flower stuff.
The land at first glance, when suitably dressed, like long-fabled lands in our dreams,
From the northern plateau to the sea down below, is really quite more than it seems.

The table-land flats pushed up by the Earth, while forming long centuries ago,
Are slowly eroded by wind and by rain into karst, tomb-like caverns below.
Limestone cracks and faults from the strain, leaving deep canyons and rills.
Aquifer fed springs feed cold, rippled streams, draining the rocky-faced hills.

Tall yellow grass as high as your waist, grew hardy past prairie oak mott.
A place where both man and animal roamed in a paradise time long forgot.
Where buffalo grazed past a pink granite dome; pecan and fruit trees grew wild;
Where water was found pushed out of the ground at a place where man was beguiled.

So quickly it changes from a paradise found, to a desert on the edge of a lie,
When rains fail to fall and the aquifer dries up, when the summer sun rises high.
When the grasses die brown in dreadful drought, and the ground cracks under your feet.
Filled full of strife, it's a hard scrabble life, in the crust and the dust and the heat.

The game moved away to follow the grass, the men then followed the game.
What choice did they have? You go while you can, or you die while waiting for rain.
Rivals for water now, critter and man, crowd near seeps – once bountiful springs.
And they pray for the day when the heat gives away to the rain that heat often brings.

Clouds, heavy laden, are brought inland, high aloft on the south coastal wind,
Which now hits the rim of the upland plateau, and condenses the moisture within.
Down from the clouds to the landscape below, the wetness now forms in drops.
Sweet, summer rain now graces the plain and also the distant hilltops.

The cold front that triggered the life-giving rains has stalled out over the plain.
And the cold lofty air meets warm southern breezes and creates even more rain.
It is so hard to know in times such as these, is it a half-full or a half-empty cup?
The rain comes so fast the ground has surpassed the capacity to soak it all up.

From the hills high above the water now flows into the deep canyons below.
The amount now far outpaces the need, and causes dry streambeds to flow.
Increasing in mass as it increases speed, while the rain continues to fall,
In a maddening dash, quick as a flash, it moves downstream like a wall.

Now rushing full force down river and gorge, the surge is increased by the mud.
The canyons now drum in a deafening roar, as all is swept up in the flood.
You can hear boulders roll on the hard river floor, as the flood expresses its wrath.
Trees that that are downed, and anything drowned, are carried along in its path.

Water seeks its own natural level and drains itself down to the sea.
The river of life that water provides is a lesson for both you and me.
The people that live and are left to survive, somehow managed to cheat
The death that came with the life giving rain. The irony now is complete.

The land lifts and falls but gradually slants downward, and Southeast to the gulf.
The hill country knolls, prairie-grass blessed, are sun-kissed with wild-flower stuff.
The land at first glance, when suitably dressed, like long-fabled lands in our dreams,
From the northern plateau to the sea down below, is really quite more than it seems.

About this poem

This poem is about the beautiful Texas hill country where I live. It first appeared in the book Where the Wild Rice Grows, Aim-Hi Books, 2017.

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Submitted by ErnieLee on August 18, 2021

3:10 min read
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Ernie Lee

The Bard of the Blanco, Ernie Lee, is a Texas award-winning author from Canyon Lake, Texas. Ernie writes a continuing column in the Hill Country Sun magazine. He is the producer of the Indi Country Roadshow. He is a songwriter (BMI), storyteller, author, and poet of long standing in the region. As a poet, Ernie is known as the Bard of the Blanco. Ernie is married and lives in Canyon Lake, Texas with his lovely wife Donna. www.Aim-HiBooks.com more…

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    "Hill Country" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 7 Dec. 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/107322/hill-country>.

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