American Life in Poetry: Column 276

I live in Nebraska, where we have a town named Homer. Such a humble, homely name and, as it happens, the poet Donal Heffernan is from Homer, and here’s his hymn to the town and its history. Long live Homer. And while we’re celebrating Nebraska towns, let’s throw in Edgar, too.

My Hometown

Oh, Homer!

Your village sleeps near the Missouri River

With your cousin Winnebago, both children of Lakotaland.

You kept your town at two stories, as flat as the surrounding prairie.

You taught the Iliad and Odyssey in honor of your namesake poet.

Your spirit outlasted the bleached fields of the Depression, and

Bravely swam against the raging Omaha Creek floods.

On warm, wet spring Saturday nights,

You provided dark places for your young

To launch your next generation

In pickups, unlighted.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Donal Heffernan, whose most recent book of poetry is Duets of Motion, Lone Oak Press, 2001. Poem reprinted by permission of Donal Heffernan. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.