By Daniel Wolff 

“[The Moundbuilders created] the largest system of connected geometric earthworks built anywhere in the world.”
— guide to the Great Circle Earthworks

Prairie – turned gold by sun and corn,
etched by black two-lanes to let
trucks deliver loaves of bread
(manifest design) –
reveals beneath its business grid
another grid of earthen mounds.

These perfect circles, extended squares
hold, we’re told, the ancient dead.
Out of respect, traffic diverts
(trucks veering from history/hurt),
except few tombs are actually found,
and those long ago looted.

Back when the land had different borders
— before the gold, before our love —
how many thousands carted dirt
how many miles over how many days?
They must have believed (or were led to believe)
in the orderly workings of power.

Now, John Deere combines comb the fields,
and highways quadrant flat Ohio
as if we, the living, didn’t know
how the curve of a giant body feels –
as if led to believe there are no dead.
The dawn delivery of bread.

Daniel Wolff’s most recent book is More Poems About Money (Four Way Books). His poetry has appeared in The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, and Raritan, among others. Great Circle Earthworks is part of a longer series about the Moundbuilders/Hopewell culture.

Image courtesy of the National Park Service.