Kansas Poems
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View a Poem on This Page; Select & Click a Title Below

A Kansan Visits New York City -- by Al Ortolani

Between the Mo & the Kaw -- by William Patterson

Flint Hills -- by William J. Karnowski

Gift -- by Lois Virginia Walker
Looking From Seventh Floor -- by Emma Miller

Lost Voice -- by Larry Powers

Night Fires -- by Carolyn Hall

Noticing Two Cedars -- by kl barron

Prairie Clouds --by Barry R Barnes

Prairie Morn -- by Sally Jadlow

Rabbit Babies -- by R. Ossiya

Ride with the Top Down  -- by Wilma Weant Dague

Spring Ritual -- by R.D. McManes

Measuring Up -- by Robert D. Carey



Topeka, Kansas
            by Lois Virginia Walker


Flatlands gave me a gift.

I’d like to say what it was

Not to have been born near water

Where salt solution spreads on sand;

Not to have been rocked in a cradle

Of mountains or put on top of a view;

Not to have been lost in the forest

With Hansel and Gretel, holding hands.

            I was pushed by the wind,

            On my feet pushing back

            I was small in the wind

            That would keep coming back.

Say the flat horizon of a child’s

Sketch leaves more to wind and sky,

Stretches out for every tree

And tulip added. . .offered up

To unsalted, never cornered air.


A Kansan Visits New York City
By Al Ortolani

When the neighbor’s dog

barks in the rain

at the wind

in the vines of honeysuckle,

you remember the crowd

rippling down Mulberry Street

into Chinatown.

Like leaves on a fence row

they interconnect

and lace

into a rope of green,

an occasional blossom


lifting from the braid.


Previously published in
The Little Balkan's Review


Read More Poems by Al Ortolani 

by Carolyn Hall


My headlights trace an asphalt seam

through deserted Flint Hills.

Night air hints of sweet embers.

An orange halo crowns the next rise.

Radiant flames bookend my path.

Yellow-capped crimson streaks

dance into a moonless sky. Mesmerized

by the celestial flare, I slow to watch

the ebb and flow of the serpentine blaze.

Amber glazed clouds of smoke cascade

around me. Purged by fire,

this tallgrass prairie

sustains through generations.

Past and present converge:

Sacred space, holy dimension,

nature's pyre unleashes primal essence.

Buffalo hooves thunder. Shadows

of wild mustangs stampede through the hills.

Night birds take flight above

haunting melodies of cedar flutes.

Earth drum beats native rhythm, distant

voices chant stories into the future,

past the mirage of the moment,

beyond the speed limit of sight.


Noticing Two Cedars

 by kl barron

Two cedars


the trail

I follow


They squat

compressing all they know

in shaggy directions

that branch the sky

into jagged blue pieces


I do not know

the weedy history

they define

among the grasses


Political people

with a preference for religion

placed them there, I suppose,

to catch the chill off the wind

when it blew down the hills

of the prairie


These trees have meditated long

to get by

with what they didn’t need

The task


only the task has kept them upright

after generations

of pioneers

and sneering coyotes

marking them

with their dribbles of time


I didn’t notice them

until they called to me

with their almost visible voices

through the mist


of an ancient civilization

they appeared in the distance

two hunchbacked sentinels

bidding me

draw near


Except for the stones

of a ruined fence

they were alone

waiting patiently


I stood on the silent grasses

and ashes of others

I did not remember

anything but the cedars’

prairie breath

and the blue between

their branches


It is good to have a body

to move around in

Now when I follow the trail

I notice


two cedars

peering over the further hills


and they hold me

with their being

By Sally Jadlow

Pink dawn creeps
across Kansas prairie.
Reveals rusty rolling hills,
peppered with grazing cattle,
tall signal towers,
and pumping oil wells.


Clumps of trees
give up their brilliant fall colors
to the full light of day.


Static starlings fill power lines
perched like so many
finely-worked french knots.
On silent signal
take flight
in fanciful dance.


Clusters of scrub cedars
stand shoulder to shoulder
to catch
winter snow drifts.


Placid ponds reflect
peaceful skies streaked
with gauze-like clouds.


High tension lines
march single file
across brown landscape.
Hold millions of volts
in their insulated hands
to deliver light into dark places.

Read More Poems by Sally Jadlow 


Prairie Clouds

By Barry R Barnes

Crest of a small hill

Eyes to the sky

Parade of clouds slowly roll by

Some in the shape of things I recognize

Green grass under my back

Cool I’m relaxed

Lazy smile I can see for miles

I put my head back

Shut my lids for a while

Motionless I lie                

Experiencing a drug free Kansas high.


Rabbit Babies
By R. Ossiya

Look, how flagrant--how unrestrained

the weeds and other wild things

that grow in my front yard!

From all around, my land draws rabbit babies--

its clover, buffalo grass, bindweeds,

wild onions, and dandelion greens

all tossed together in one big salad surprise.

There is something vaguely unfriendly--

faintly dangerous, even--

lurking in alien lawns of fescue and Bermuda grass,

and all the rabbit babies know it.

That is why they hop on past my neighbors' yards

on their merry way to mine.



All poetry on this page
© by
their authors - 2006, 2007 



Flint Hills
 by William J. Karnowski

outside of me is dawn

at first the birds celebrate

singing their stanzas

blue birds after blue birds

rain crows make their predictions

the prairie chicken boom

from the arena of the lek

and the mocking bird lies

about his identity

then all goes quiet

at the intermission

the second verse is the muffled

roar of the six-legged multitudes

honey bees massage the petals

satisfying that single sweet tooth

the yellow jackets menace

an innocent butterfly passerby

the grasshoppers chew tobacco

helicopter flies proudly hover

but the middle of the morning

belongs to the meadowlark

singing, "who the hell are you?"

asking, "who the hell are you?"

and I have no Christian answer.

Read More Poems by William J. Karnowski



Looking From Seventh Floor

By Emma Miller


It is night and Wichita is all lights—

Bright white mercury vapors,

Yellow high-pressure sodiums,

Blinking neons,

Ambers and reds.


Headlights move along the Canal route.

Street with steady traffic flow must be Kellogg.

That thick aggregate of lights

Could be downtown Wichita

Where they drag Douglas.


A flashing red light just now appeared.

Where did it come from?

Someone else is asking that question

As he waits---

What will happen?


It is night and Wichita is all lights—

Steady stalwart sentinels  
On guard through the night.

I watch from my window.

Beautiful sight

Measuring Up

by Robert D. Carey


Gritty, stubborn pioneers

Settling on Kansas plains;

Persisting through cycles

Of dreams and despair.


Grasshoppers, cinch bugs,

Blizzards and droughts;

Prairie fires, crop failures,

Loneliness and isolation.


Facing it all head on

By faith and strong will,

Our ancestors,

Our heritage.


“Spring ritual”

 by R.D. McManes

gazing over the plains,
a sequence of
charred fields
wave after wave,
each appears to pause
before the next
one disappears

gray whiffs

of grass smoke

begin again,
meandering, tendrils

lost between

orange flashes of light

beneath a Kansas sky.

Read More Poems by R.D. McManes

Between the Mo & the Kaw
by William Patterson

From Atchison's north in darkness
bundled from night-cold
& not recovered from sleep
I am hardly at the wheel

sliding past landmarks
scarcely visible in early dim
old farm oak reminds me
to be mindful of path.

I bend west in time
before making my first full swerve
for half an hour.

Then, stopping at a cross-
in all directions,
I bear, finally, east

my last straight course
before two more bends
south again &
a river crossing.

Some days I meet the sun
over the eastern bluff
just a mile south of Lawrence,
yesterday it rose above the Kaw.

Today, I beat it up,
my chest pounding from cold,
exiting my car, reflecting
all the impossible promises a working day.

When it is done,
I will climb back in for the return:
same path: new direction
over the same river still going.

The sun will close behind me
& a light in a small house
on a small hill will welcome me


Lost Voice

By Larry Powers

Wave upon wave the herds wandered
across vast plains, endless prairies,
stretching out, reaching to the horizon.
The earth trembled beneath hooves;
the noise of their bellowing echoed,
thousands of voices blended as one.

Tromping through valleys, o’er hilltops,
en masse, moving slowly, methodically,
single bodies crowding, indistinguishable,
into the huddled legions of rolling fur.
Clouds of dust and swarms of flies
followed them into ancestral grounds.

They roamed freely, proud and unfettered,
preyed upon by the skillful Plains Indians,
who sought only a source of sustenance:
meals to appease their hungry bellies
and furs for warmth against winter freeze,
thankful hunters, taking only for need.

Then the intruders came, pleasure hunters,
torturing, slaughtering wave upon wave
for the mere joy of sport, the thrill kill.
Skinners, for pay, ripped away precious fur
leaving pile upon pile of bleached bones
and decaying flesh, the smell of death.

Putrid landfills, naked corpses rotting,
bones scattered across ancestral lands,
until they returned back to the dust.
Gone, the once great herds are no more,
the sound of the bellowing, the trembling
diminished and fragmented, a lost voice.

Now, but a few of these great buffalo remain
of what once formed the huddled legions,
a remnant, protected on reserves, fettered.
Hired mercenaries, ruthless marauders,
leaving bones of ancestors piled in heaps,
brought the herd to the edge of extinction.

Ride with the Top Down
By Wilma Weant Dague

Think how impossible it is to love Kansas. No ocean, no mountains. This summer, no significant rain for weeks. We take a ride in your MGB convertible on a blazing day. Here on the right-- stunted corn, brown with tassels sprouting shoulder high. On the left, a crop of soybeans barely measurable in height. Above the blue astounds. Puff ball clouds drift across the sky.

Five miles out and five miles back -- after all the kids are home alone--though the neighbors are awake and the kids know 911. Dust flies up in the gravel-topped turnaround, clings to the new wax. We pause for a minute on the concrete bridge to ponder a brown stream that trudges along. So this is Kansas. A few people even call it big sky country.

Back at the four-way, three white vehicles approach from each of the other directions. A pick-up and two non-descript sedans. And there we are, a slice of ripe red tomato against the tan and white-grained earth.





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