The Prodigal

In the end the thing that dis­turbed him most,
the thing he remem­bered most through the years,
was when he returned to the fam­ily place,
to the hard unfor­giv­ing acres where
his father still farmed, and recalled again
the inher­ent knowl­edge he once pos­sessed
sim­ply by being his father’s son—
a knowl­edge fore­gone, con­signed to the past,
till he saw it rise up in his father’s face
as a look of reproach: that noth­ing gained
by talk­ing has worth, that cat­tle and land
are the only wealth befit­ting a man,
that a land­less man is like Adam cast
from the Gar­den, shamed, and for­ever lost.




B.J. Omanson’s poems in this issue are from a col­lec­tion of poems about the Spoon River val­ley in Illi­nois where he was raised. Other poems from this col­lec­tion have appeared in The Hud­son Review, The Sewa­nee Review, Shenan­doah & else­where. Most recently he wrote the anno­ta­tions for the poems of a “lost” WWI poet whom he redis­cov­ered, John Allan Wyeth, whose book of poems, This Man’s Army: A War in Fifty-odd Son­nets was repub­lished by the Uni­ver­sity of South Car­olina Press in 2008, with an intro­duc­tion by Dana Gioia. Omanson’s cur­rent project, Where the River Dark­ens: An Exper­i­ment in Auto­bi­og­ra­phy & Poetry, can be seen at