I too am Kansas
(Inspired by Langston Hughes’ I Too Sing America )
by Saundra Harris
I am in the shadows waiting for her glance.
My eyes bright like Langston’s
Wondering as I wander whispering for her
I am the voice of many singing to the stars through difficulties
I am the honey hands of Gordon’s mother
Returning him home to rest
Mother land of Barack
I stand in defiance to wrongs.
I am the dark clouds brewing in the east carrying the tears
I carry her flag – proud but troubled
I remember the fear the rejection still
I am the Buffalo Soldier returning from II
I am the eyes of Linda Brown tiny in Topeka
Walking to school
I am her native Son born of her cities
My legs run in her green grass with Maurice faster
Than any man
I stand in the shadows waiting for her glance.
I am the endless night skies of the plains.
One day she will see me and say how beautiful I am
And be ashamed
I too sing Kansas
In Kansas To Stay
by Roy J. Beckemeyer
Up to my shoulders
In Indian Grass,
I find that I, too, have taken root
In this prairie,
Sent shoots feeling their way
Past granules and pebbles
Into the iron-hard turf.
Now the wind can send me swaying wildly,
The sun can dry and crack my skin,
But, like the prairie grass,
I am anchored,
I am here to stay;
No pulling, no tugging
Can wrest me from this land.
Like the Indian Grass, I cling to this earth,
Every bit as urgently,
Every bit as exuberantly,
As I reach for the sky.
by Amber Clontz
For me there is no ocean.
Sea shells are remains of Box turtles
Cottonwood leaves are my plankton
The whales I know are called buffalo
Cicadas imitate the tide’s heaving roar
Mermaids plow dust beaches
Land locked prairies reminisce,
the day the sea drained and sunflowers grew.
by Debra White
There’s something sacred about the way she’s dying
The old cottonwood in our backyard—dying in sections,
one limb at a time.
And now nearly half of her is dried, leafless,
bark peeling off leaving her naked skin
to be eaten by insects and pecked at by woodpeckers.
Yet it’s the death in her that keeps the rest of her living…
shade to us and refuge for squirrels and birds who want to hide.
But branch by branch, she’s letting go until one spring
She’ll decide to not wake up from hibernation.
Then, birds will weep
and so will I.
Kansas August Evening
by Jamie Lynn Heller
Open my window, Mommy
I want to hear the
by Bill Hickok
The drab diminutive cowbird
hops like a rabbit behind
her bovine friend.
Makes gourmet meals of
what’s left on the ground.
Her moxie does not stop there
In spring she drops her eggs
with mercenary zeal
into the nest of strangers.
Meadowlark becomes motherlark;
killdeer, mommy dear;
the prairie sparrows and grouse--
all oblivious surrogates
for these street-smart cruisers.
Gone the nursery and teenage
tyranny. These master sleuths
of the midland flats have
feathers of their kind and
brains that gleam
with the scent of a fox.
Kansas in Autumn
by Barbara Mayer
Cerulean skies surround
the Kansas plains like an azure
ocean sweeping across the horizon.
Faint wisps of white marble
the aqua expanse. Shafts of sunlight
bathe shriveled cornstalks
and withered sunflowers, creating
an autumn landscape resplendent
with rusts, ambers and olive greens.
The flat contour of Kansas may lack
the boldness of mountain peaks
and majesty of ancient oaks,
but when its fertile fields touch the
cobalt firmament, serenity envelops
my soul and I feel touched by grace.
Keep It Safe
by Dan Pohl
All Ad Astra folk should
Share, of course, what they
Know of sleepy small towns
Hidden in state, cut away from the
Arteries of blacktop highways
And tell about red-dirt streets
That spill into Kansas farmlands,
Un-choked prairies, filled with
Wind moved milkweed
Trilling Meadowlarks, and
Lip numbing Snake Root.
From tractors, we see them
Travelers who stop and stand
And stare into the open plains
As into a crystal ball to divine
The mystic secrets of the place
For a moment, they attempt
To look for that which we
Have eaten over years
Absorbed by willing skin
They pressure the moment with little time
To stay, overnight maybe, and they feel they
Must rush to the other side, to what
They think is a better state, the next
Diversion, so they squint hard for the
Answer, hard enough to stamp lines
Onto the outside corners of their eyes
by Jamie Lynn Heller
I gripped the under curve of metal
lining the bed of his farm battered truck
to keep from getting
and lost in the prairie sea.
The hot wind in my hair
carried the breath of the land in bloom and
hours later in bed my pillow would
absorbed the scent
to keep me company.
I could see the bald curve of his head
through the back window,
the tip of a toothpick pricked his silhouette,
one hand on the wheel,
his left arm, from shirt sleeve to watch band,
a long time partner of the sun’s.
It didn’t matter where he went
or what chore waited,
I went along and
rode the fields.
Kansas Flint Hills
by Russett Stubbs
Winters, dark and lonely.
Springs, burnt blacken grass.
Summers, lush and green.
Falls, rust and brass.
Horizons, miniature mountains.
Sunrise, Sunsets, bold storms.
Lovely, Kansas Flint Hills.
Wondrous, yearly norm.
by Daniel Spees
It was precisely in the center of summer
the time to escape in swimming. . .
my girlfriend's cousin had a cabin
up in Reading, right by a lake,
so with blankets and towels
in a cardboard box
we rode weekends to this shack on the shore
where there was a porch, cots and a kerosene
lamp, all the clumsy necessaries
distasteful to parents--
an outhouse listing left,
hammock between pines, cistern,
matches, clothespins, sandals. . .
The loneliest lake in the county,
my girlfriend's fat cousin said
among the lapping, whispering,
chuckling noises of the insects,
water and trees, and my girlfriend
would laugh about it until dark.
The loneliest lake maybe in Kansas,
she'd murmur in my ear beside me
on the creaking canvas. At ten o'clock
the water went black except for splashes
of moonlight. Her thighs were like
cool slick lotion on my sunburned hide,
like memory, like lake sounds interrupting
logic as I lecture my kids.
Read More Poems by ► Daniel Spees (PDF)
Looking From Seventh Floor
By Emma Miller
It is night and Wichita is all lights--
Bright white mercury vapors,
Yellow high-pressure sodiums,
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.
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.
Love Letter to Kansas
by Pamela McMaster Yenser
I have always wanted to recite love
letters written clear as the unfettered
Salmon of the West on the sandy-shored
Snake or the swift and shadowy St. Joe--
so unlike those thick rivers of our youth
that muddied the gowns of baptismal whites
and darkened the slick canoes lovers rent
for love’s languishments.
Our brown bodies
listened too, to love’s insistent tune,
strung high up as the songs cicadas
hum in dreams left hanging on the bark
of river cottonwoods, their insides emptied
out by ants and blown through yards and yards
of backyard laundry lines, barbed wire claws
hooked on bright underwear, mostly mine
as I recall, more elegant than yours, more light.
It’s summer now and now I’m thinking
all the time along riverlines, how
the fragrant brown riverbath of the past
eddies out of the deep ecstatic blue
pool that draws my lightening fly line--
now a whip, now an S on paperwhite sky,
now passing (psst-psst) downstream as I am
one with the fly in her fuzzy coat,
lustrous—that is, until we two are snagged.
I know this is not what is meant by
catch and release, but look how I’ve tried:
to channel my rivers of fear,
to thread hope through the smallest eye,
to tie the knots that will not come untied.
I want to get this right, to extend my hand
just so far, to cast myself upstream.
If your fish aren’t biting, I tell myself,
it must love itself I’m fighting, that you yourself
must be released, like letters let go. But wait,
I think, isn’t that only halfway true--
the way home is like a river running through
the great dead sea of childhood. The way
I want you. The way I turn you loose.
Originally Published in Touchstone (September 2003)
Love Letters from Kansas to Oz: Poems about a Poet, 7
by DaMaris B. Hill
some, thing's angel
the home in each of my poems
like pinchy rosaries
heaven is not above
reclining in the rim of your smile
i am a witness
when i looked away
i want to sip light
give me music of your veins
the electric lasso of your gaze
tugging after laughter
with your fingers