. . . for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation . . . Exodus 20:5
A mural in the Kansas statehouse:
this man with wildfire eyes, clutching
freedom like commandments,
gun in one hand, Bible in the other,
his image iconic, recalling
a bloody sainthood:
The fires simmered
in Lawrence, the Free-State Press
heaped to ashes and charred
planks by the pro-slavers,
when he took four sons
and his burning abolition,
dragged five men from their homes,
and, in front of their families,
raised sharpened swords.
Brown spread his vengeance
like red wheat across the fields,
left rubble of men behind him.
He stopped short of the prophet
who sent limbs to the four
corners of the land. Yet this man,
who carved wrath
across the state, was feared
by would-be southerners
all the way to the Colorado
border. The state broiled for years,
through skirmishes and lawlessness
and two nullified constitutions.
But Brown left,
raided Harper's Ferry,
and when we killed him
it was the proper Federal way,
on public gallows and rope
cutting against his neck.
The Myth of Stull, Kansas
If someone tells you to go to hell,
take Highway 40
and proceed ten miles west from Lawrence.
But if you want to see the devil himself
make your brave voyage on the night of
the Spring Equinox or Halloween.
Satanic stories abound over Stull, Kansas —
a hamlet too small to have its own post office
but large enough to contain legions of evil spirits.
They say a little boy had been scorched to death
in a field his father was burning,
and a man was found hung from an oak tree
after vanishing like a wisp of smoke,
while yet another at the old church felt
an unearthly gale while inside the building
But it’s the cemetery that is most feared
for they say it is Beelzebub’s gate.
The voices of the dead will strangle you
while evils spirits carve out your innards.
Legend has it that early settlers erased
the shame of their witchcraft practices
by erasing Deer Creek Community
and replacing its name with “Stull.”
And folks swear that an old tree in the graveyard
once served as gallows for condemned witches
who return each year as Satan’s army.
Pshaw! Look, see the vandalized grave markers
and that church building leveled into limestone gravel.
Nonsense! There is no evil here in Stull, Kansas.
So why did the Pope supposedly order his private plane
to avoid crossing Stull’s path on his way to Colorado ?
ON THE CENTRAL PLAIN
Duane L. Hermann
Peak afternoon heat,
not the smartest time,
for a summer hike,
but homage I paid
to the ancient ones.
Ignorant of ceremonies
and the language,
yet I come with respect
this is a holy place:
this mound, rising
from the vast, open plain,
a remnant city
of once vast and
with secrets unknown
hundreds of years now
At Home in the Country
Grandpa Floyd’s beaten straw hat rose well above the gray
Ford garden-tractor that tilled 60-acre milo,
but fell short of my shoulder.
A head short, a heart tall.
His hatbrim’s eyeshade, essential as the now-shattered mulberry windbreak,
oversaw our shaking careful pies to canvas,
our rescue of purple-sugared beauties from brown-green twig-leaves,
Thudding cacophonies ending in supper dessert-sighs.
The stained impressionist tarp mulls its own berry-splashes,
hanging not quiet in the old barn, echoing lazily
against brother dust motes that drift and dream in broken beams,
awaiting another harvest, unrealized.
Across from the barn window, a driveway away,
hovering above barren goat-grazed landfill, another specter floats,
its white wood window frames, door, and stone steps
tucked neatly around another purple-sweet, whose lilac scent
decorated the May air, dressing it for our entry, come supper.
Below, dark brown buries all memory, all trace of basement
and make-shift garage, its ghosts of cream separator,
Mason-jar tomatoes, coal furnace, and Grandpa’s 51 Ford,
complete with glowing purple-green and white dashboard
that so impressed the neighbor’s visiting Oklahoma granddaughter
that night, getting ice cream in town at Dallas’s.
Four years after grandpa’s back-covering brown mole
gnawed its way through his lung,
a smoldering remnant returned to remove grandma’s
last reasons to stay. Returning from a concert,
she found her piano back-lit by flame,
its wires popping one last sigh-sound as it melted
with the rest, leaving only smoke-wisps, not another
slowly-rotting wood grave marker.
Serina Allison Hearn
I bought a bucket of Morning-Mist
and painted the windows open.
Electric-Pink that splattered the floor
was patiently scrapped with razor and rags
until the oak grain shone.
Evocative-Sunlight in multiple layers
hid the bruise marks on the walls.
Two emergency blankets of Ivory-Coast
tenderly covered, mended, kicked-in-doors.
Frosted-Hawthorn soothe in cross stitch brush strokes
graffiti etchings from drunken KU frat-boy parties.
The painted Victorian,
built by 1850's Lawrence-Kansas pioneers
stood, patiently, waiting for its wounds to heal.
Next morning I brought a gallon
and sealed the front porch done.