American Life in Poetry: Column 337

South Dakota poet Leo Dangel has written some of the best and truest poems about rural life that I’m aware of. Here’s a fine one about a chance discovery.

Behind the Plow
I look in the turned sod

for an iron bolt that fell

from the plow frame

and find instead an arrowhead

with delicate, chipped edges,

still sharp, not much larger

than a woman’s long fingernail.

Pleased, I put the arrowhead

into my overalls pocket,

knowing that the man who shot

the arrow and lost his work

must have looked for it
much longer than I will
look for that bolt.

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 ©1987 by Leo Dangel, whose most recent book of poems is The Crow on the Golden Arches, Spoon River Poetry Press, 2004. Poem reprinted from A Harvest of Words: Contemporary South Dakota Poetry, Patrick Hicks, Ed., Pine Hill Press, Inc., 2010, by permission of Leo Dangel and the publisher Introduction copyright © 2011 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.