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Promise City by the Numbers

Within driving distance
of unincorporated Confidence,

located in the middle
of the bottom of the state,

this Iowa town has a population
a mere fraction of its cemetery:

112 according to the last
census, divided into 49

households and 29 families,
all but 0.9 of whom are the color

of the space between stanzas.
Not much happens in Promise.

Most work. Poverty is work, too.
So is marriage. Birth and death

are the same as everywhere else,
no more remarkable, no less

to grieve. Main Street runs
mundane through it all, offering

Main Street kinds of items:
coffee, supplements, floss

for your teeth. But today,
a church day, the wind is a sip

of sparkling lemonade from the south
at 6 miles per hour, the air a balmy
64 degrees and the humidity is more
like Miami at 93 percent. It’s clear

that spring has come on gopher feet
to the prairie, bringing the time

to restore the blended colors
of the mesic turf with the seeds

of black-eyed susan and smooth
blue aster. Invest in it. Revel.

For the next 90 days, attract
pollinators with blazing star

and showy goldenrod, bring back
independent bison to graze

like mailmen through all kinds
of weather, who will later tunnel

through 9 months of snow drifts
with the determined shovels

of their hooves to find ox-eye,
goat’s rue, and rattlesnake master,

who lead themselves to water
at deep-enough local ponds

that don’t freeze all the way down
to their muddy seats, and give

eco-tours to curious tourists
driving cross-country, allowing

the wealthy to hunt the herds
and feast on meat tasting

of sovereign natures and a place
living wildly up to its name.

Jen Karetnick