Native Wit by Howard F. Stein

Native Wit

Not for lack of native wit
Have cottonwoods prevailed
Upon prairie’s crusted skin.

Brief torrents of summer rain
Fill dry streambeds, soon
Give way to months of drought.

Crocus, tulip, pom-pom, azalea,
forsythia, redbud – they take their
chances with Spring’s early dare.

When, for blooming, nothing else
Remains – enter cottonwoods,
Hearty laggards of the plains.

Howard F. Stein, an applied, psychoanalytic, medical, and organizational anthropologist, psychohistorian, organizational consultant, and poet, is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK, USA, where he taught for nearly 35 years. He has published numerous articles, chapters, and books, many of which are co-authored with Seth Allcorn. He has published 11 books and chapbooks of poetry, of which the most recent are Presence – Poems from Ghost Ranch (2020), Centre and Circumference (2018), and Light and Shadow (2nd edition, 2018). Finishing Line Press has published five of his chapbooks. He is poet laureate of the High Plains Society for Applied Anthropology. He can be reached at

Image Credit: Ghostly branches of a cottonwood in spring [photography by Richard Schulte, San Diego, CA]