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,
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.
by Frances Enloe
Grandma would tell us
doesn't compare with
the night sky of
In the deep blue sky of
Evening or at midnight's
Darkest, the prairie
stars sparkle like
glittering on a trans-
Noticing Two Cedars
by kl barron
compressing all they know
in shaggy directions
that branch the sky
into jagged blue pieces
I do not know
the weedy history
among the grasses
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
only the task has kept them upright
and sneering coyotes
with their dribbles of time
(continued at right)
continued ... Noticing Two Cedars
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
Except for the stones
of a ruined fence
they were alone
I stood on the silent grasses
and ashes of others
I did not remember
anything but the cedars’
and the blue between
It is good to have a body
to move around in
Now when I follow the trail
peering over the further hills
and they hold me
with their being
On Roniger Hill
Chase County, Kansas; near Hymer, Kansas
by Steven K. Nagle
Prairie silence was broken, as iron tools struck rock,
The barrel-chested men, chiseled each quarry block.
The wagons were loaded, with masons and stone,
Each solid cube lifted with a heave and a groan.
Dust trails behind wheels, another haul on the way,
The clouds seen for miles signaled a start to their day.
From Hymer and Elmdale and Matfield Green,
The homesteaders came, as Heskett built his dream.
Stones perfectly placed, through sweat and through skill,
Within the earth’s hold, on the side of the hill.
Admired from miles along the old dusty road,
She was more than a house or a simple abode.
She was the pride of the prairie, a gem on the plain,
Withstood violent storms and wind driven rains.
She cradled the infants and watched old men die,
She saw a mother’s joy and saw the widows cry.
She continues her perch, overlooking the field,
Her history preserved and her secrets revealed.
The stone beauty stands proud on Roniger Hill,
She remains eternal, as if time stood still.
by Bev Lethem Davis
We packed a thermos full of coffee
for the trip to Philly. Not THE Philly,
but what Phillipsburg High graduates
now call their hometown.We called
it the Burg. Lately, when you eat
at the Third Street Bakery, you can
get a Phillipsburger. It's big,
it's well-done and it's covered in goop
on a huge bun of white flour meal. Not a lick
of fiber in the thing. But it fills you up.
We think we’ll try one on arrival.
On the way to Philly, we drive the old roads,
the two lanes. 281 out of Russell, home
of former Senator and Presidential candidate,
Robert Dole. And through Plainville,
boyhood home of Jerry Moran. Both men are
Republicans. We aren’t. It’s Republican Country,
this home state we share with them. This
doesn’t keep us from returning the wave
we receive as we meet friendly
farmers in mud-covered pickups
traveling along the highway. The
wave is of the first finger, barely lifted off
the steering wheel. A sort of tip-your-hat
greeting along a lonesome road amidst
rolling Kansas plains dried
auburn under winter's sky.
My husband calls our old Durango
the lumber wagon as it lumbers
along carrying supplies and paint
to help my recently widowed sister
redo her full-to-the-brim house
of memory. Maybe it will help loosen
her chain of pain and move her to more
comfortably remodel her very different life.
Losing Larry changed us all.
When the redo is done,
my husband and I will slide furniture back
against the walls, hammer in nails to hang
photos of old memories
but leave room for new.
Afterwards, we'll take the interstate home,
slide in the Prairie Rose Wranglers cd
to cover our quiet thinking
so we don't miss the Phillipsburger
we didn't try, one-fingered waves,
two-lane roads, or our brother-in-law.
by Mark Scheel
weep like battered wives;
yesterday's wheat fields molder
in galvanized tombs.
It's been this way before:
the patriarchal sun turning
his gray side out like a banker
locking his door.
Main streets lie fallow
as desert bones. Tumbleweeds
dance on doorsteps.
Logo caps commiserate
round gun-racked pickup trucks
while only the crow's cry
mocks the stillness. And I --
turning a shoulder to the dark wind —
pilgrimage past the boarded school,
slip the wrought-iron portal's latch,
drop to one knee and lay a peony
on my mother's grave.
--first published in Kansas Quarterly
Read More Poems by ► Mark Scheel
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.
by Stephen Meats
K-96 highway north and west of Fredonia climbs
and quickly crests a bluff, and stretching
away from this high point the smoking fields
of corn and wheat and oats and milo and soybeans,
and bluestem pastures, and ditches full of larkspur
and goldenrod and sunflowers and bindweed
form a pattern like a giant log-cabin quilt,
and the trucks and the cars traveling the roads
and the tractors trailing plumes of dust
above the fields seem shuttles weaving a fabric,
and the air is full of scissortails
and meadowlarks and swallows all weaving,
and the legs of killdeer running through the pastures
and of bobwhite scurrying into plum thickets
and of herons stalking frogs along Fall River
are like quick needles stitching,
and men on foot or horseback or behind plow mules
or in haymows or on combines or corn pickers
are stitching, and women with rifles
in the doors of dugouts and in the barns
milking or at their looms or laboring
over writing desks or cook stoves or sickbeds
are stitching, and men and women together,
man the needle and woman the cloth, in love,
or perhaps lust, or even force or hate or fear
are stitching, stitching, always on the edge
stitching together this patchwork of generations
and land, and the tension: too tight
and the thread will snap or the fabric cut,
too loose and the seams won't hold.
--first published in Albatross (1990); reprinted in
Looking for the Pale Eagle (Woodley Press, 1993).
Read More Poems by ► Stephen Meats
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
in fanciful dance.
Clusters of scrub cedars
stand shoulder to shoulder
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 Dogs Have No Time to Pray
by Dan Pohl
When they notice dangers that come
They dive into their Kansas seas
Filled with prehistoric, disconnected
Bones and ancient predator’s loosened
Teeth that punctuate their keeping
Among Indian Root, June bug grubs
And Devil’s Claw, which also burrow
To invade the space of shattered
Flint and Sand Hill grasses
They dig to swim there underground
Into bunkers where some live as we will not
Shaken, they squeak and leap centuries deep
When hawk shadows fly too near.
Prairie Home Sold
by Winnie Smith
Prairie home sold.
Heritage strewn with the bang for
Stuff to others,
gut-churning reminders to me.
The recall of each ... its own chapter.
I am an honor student.
A Prairie Churchyard
by Mel G.Hebert
It’s a hot, summer day in the land of my birth.
here to visit my parents resting ‘neath a cover of earth.
In a lone Kansas churchyard dating back to the past,
when the territory first settled in the hopes it would last.
It’s a relic of history, built so long past gone,
near a pioneer town flattened by a prairie cyclone.
Lines of thin, fleecy clouds float idly by,
traveling ever so slowly ‘neath the pale blue sky.
A merciless sun is bent on spreading its heat
o’er the vast, waving fields of ripe, golden wheat.
Scanning the grave stones defining this plot,
I note sadly the number has grown quite a lot.
Yonder! There are the graves of my parents.
Nearby my grandparents too.
There. There. And there - kinfolks before them,
some that I never knew.
Uncles, aunts, cousins and more,
schoolmates and friends who I’ll see nevermore.
I wander about. Skyward motion catches my eye,
as a raucous crow caws noisily by.
Melancholy floods me and I wonder why
such creatures live when so many folks die.
The spell is broken. It‘s time to take leave.
I’ve visited my people. It’s past time to grieve.
At the gate, I look back with longing, each eye with a tear,
as a soft, muffled sound of shuffling feet reaches my ear.
It’s those generations before me marching on to their due,
and the generations behind me taking their place in that queue.
Then a hushed, whispering chorus says “Don’t weep.
Be now of good cheer!
We’re waiting - - and lovingly will greet you when your time is here!”